Working Strategies: More rules to help you win the job By Amy Lindgren

Jan 31, 2017, 07:54 PM

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(music) Working Strategies: More rules to help you win the job

By Amy Lindgren | alindgren@prototypecareerservice.com | September 24, 2016 at 1:49 pm When you’re faced with a complex or confusing process, guidelines can be very helpful. In the case of helping job seekers prepare for interviews, I enjoy providing a handful of basic mantras distilled from my experience with the process. For the most part, these aren’t mantras that change lives or create new paradigms — no top-of-the-mountain “aha” experiences here. Just solid principles to help order one’s thinking and enhance strategy. Last week I started my list of eight mantras by providing the three that are most fundamental to aligning the job seeker’s perspective ahead of the interview. Those three are: 1. It’s not about you; 2. Employers are interested in your future together, not your past with someone else; and 3. People hire people they like. If those sound interesting, you can catch up by looking at last week’s column. In the meantime, here are the other five mantras, which provide instruction for the interview itself. 4. Answer the real question. Taking this advice requires you to be somewhat agile in the interview. It’s relatively straightforward (even if it’s not always easy) to simply answer a question as it’s asked. Unfortunately, the straightforward answer is often unstrategic or even damaging to the candidate. If you can train yourself to pause while musing internally, “What do they really need to know?” then you will be better able to answer the question behind the question. This strategy also lets you provide data that an inexperienced interviewer might not otherwise elicit. Here’s an example. Interviewer: “On a scale of one to five, how would you rank yourself in using Microsoft Excel?” (Pause, think about the real question. Now, instead of tossing out a number, give a strategized answer): “I’ve used Excel in nearly every job I’ve had, to a greater or lesser degree. Most recently I was creating documents that required pivot tables and other more advanced features, which I was able to teach to some of my co-workers. Can you tell me more about how Excel plays into this position?” Why is this the answer to the “real question”? Because almost certainly the interviewer needs to know what you can actually do with the software — which an out-of-context self-ranking isn’t likely to reveal. 5. Don’t do the interviewer’s job. This mantra is inspired by all the candidates who start sentences with “Even though I don’t have the exact experience you’re seeking…” The basic tenet here is to not point out information that puts you at a disadvantage. Simply tell the interviewer what you can do, or what you have done in the past, then leave it to him or her to ask any needed follow-on questions. It’s your job to give your best points; it’s someone else’s job to notice or ask about any weaknesses. 6. Sell your strengths. For sure you know this: Employers want to hire you for what you can do well, not for what you don’t do well. As a happy coincidence, you’d probably prefer to do something you’re good at. Since both parties in the conversation are most interested in matching the candidate’s strengths to the job, it follows that your part of the conversation should be focused on bringing those strengths forward. To see this in action, review mantra 4 to see what the candidate said in the self-ranking exercise. Notice how the answer focused on what the candidate could do, but did not wander over to things he or she hadn’t learned to do. This candidate earned bonus points by including a skill that probably wasn’t anticipated by ...