Job Search Tip of the Week – 10/06/2016


How to Ace Your First-Round (or really, Just about Any) Interview

Think like an Interviewer – Q3

Last week we tackled the first of our 19-post series (inspired by this infographic) on the intentions behind the most common interview questions and tips on how to form the most impressive of responses (Catch up here if you missed my analysis and advice on questions meant to gauge your confidence level.).

Remember those times when your teachers said, “‘I don’t know’ isn’t a valid answer,” and you rolled your eyes at them? Time to start apologizing, because they were really doing your professional career a favor when they forced you to “at least try” – Employers won’t hire candidates who refuse to strive for solutions (Even to silly scenarios such as “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?”) because they’re afraid of getting it wrong.

They want employees who can think quickly on their feet and use the resources available to them to turn a problem into an opportunity for improvement, because those are the ones who will positively contribute the most to the company’s environment and productivity.

    Consequently, during the interview you should expect that your potential employer will try to determine the extent of your problem-solving abilities. Although they’ll most likely attempt to achieve this by using behavioral and situational interview questions, sometimes silly scenarios get thrown into the mix.

    Behavioral & Situational Interview Questions

    For my less-experienced job seekers, the former involves inquiring about experiences you’ve had overcoming (or failing to do so) obstacles in the workplace under the premise that past behavior predicts that of the future. On the other hand, the latter entails presenting dilemmas that may realistically arise in your potential jobs on the grounds that your intentions reflect your future actions.

    You can prepare for both these types of questions before you embark on interviews. Choose three to five situations in which you displayed exceptional problem-making skills. Then for each situation, break down the details. Think “PS CAR” (Fun fact for you car non-aficionados: Pferdestärke (PS) refers to the horsepower of a car.):

    • People: Who was involved
    • Situation: What was it and why was it particularly problematic
    • Cause: What led to the problem / How the situation arose
    • Address: What specific actions you took, and why you chose that particular course of action over the alternatives
    • Result: What the end-result was and what you learned from it (Was it what you’d expected? If so, why? If not, why not? What would you do differently the next time you face a similar situation?)

    Touching on all points of PS CAR when responding to behavioral interview questions will show your interviewer that you are confident and capable. You can still use PS CAR when answering situational interview questions as well – Just relate the hypothetical scenario to relevant aspects of your past experience to demonstrate your critical thinking and application skills.

    Silly Scenarios

    If you’re presented with “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put into a blender, how would you get out” or something of the like, here’s the big secret: There is no “right” answer.

    Interviewers like to pose off-the-wall questions to evaluate not only your conflict resolution strategy but also your stress response, creativity, humor, and confidence. Focus on clearly communicating your thought process and personality. It’s an opportunity for you to shine! When it comes time to review and eliminate job candidates a unique, memorable response that shows out-of-the-box thought could be the difference maker in you landing your dream job.

    Tips for All Other Problems at Work & in Life

    1. Don’t jump the gun. Take the time to thoroughly assess the situation and identify the actual problem and figure out how it came to be. Remember, sometimes what is presented as the issue is only a symptom. Understanding the causality of the situation (how it came to be) can give you insight in how to solve it more efficiently and effectively.

      That being said, efficiency is great, but effectiveness is better. As Steve Jobs once said, “When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there.”

      View the problem from multiple angles and develop various solutions to it. Adopt utilitarian thinking (i.e., focusing on a decision’s end results) and consider each solution’s potential outcomes both in the short- and long-term.
    2. Speak out. Sometimes all that is needed to move forward towards finding a solution for a problem is a fresh outside perspective. Employers take notice of people who take the initiative and show they can think for themselves. Voice your opinions and encourage others to do so as well – Just remember to be polite and respectful about it.
    3. Make the tough call. Employers like people with negotiating, compromising, and leadership skills. When collaborating with multiple people, it’s important to consider the interests of all involved parties before making a decision.

      As Jeremy Bentham once said, you should act on “The greatest good for the greatest number.” Remember that oftentimes you can’t make everyone happy, but there is a solution that will satisfy everyone.
    4. Slow and steady wins the race. The best solution is the one that address the issue in its entirety. It takes time and effort to find it, but is worth it so that you don’t have to revisit the problem later on down the road.

    Remember: Candidates who demonstrate mental flexibility and agility regardless of what they’re asked are the ones who land another interview and ultimately, the job. Take the time to prepare thorough responses to questions about your past obstacles and improve your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

    Sound Off: If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?

    Blogging forward,

    Photo Credits: The Wall Street Journal