Fifteen years ago, the job interview process was fairly straightforward, but limited in terms of what an employer could learn about you in half an hour’s time. You met with someone from human resources. She/he asked: Tell me about yourself. About your work experiences. Lovely, now you’ll meet your (maybe) future employer. Potential future employer walks in, skims over your paper resume like it’s the menu at a restaurant she’s been to 150 times. Do you have any clips (if applicable)? You hand over the binder of clips you worked on the night before. He/she glances at them because, seriously, this meeting has to wrap up before 10:20 a.m. and you’ve included 20 college newspaper clips about student rallies over cafeteria food. The interrogation begins. Tell me about yourself. About your work experiences. Why do you want to work here? And, of course: What is your greatest weakness?
You have your response to that last “trick question” committed to memory: Sometimes I get so involved in my work that I fail to see the bigger picture (because I’m brilliant and committed to the task at hand).
Job interview over. Whether or not you land the job could have everything to do with your brilliant responses or everything to do with whether you’re wearing the right shoes or you and the receptionist bonded over your love of Starlight Mints. It’s anybody’s guess.
Job interviews are very different today. We asked several experts in the hiring business to let us in on what you can expect when you meet potential employers — here are the nine tips you need to tackle today’s biggest job interview changes.
1. Prepare for behavioral interview questions — Questions often start with “tell me about a time when” and there is a technique called the STAR format to answer in a manner that gets your point across quickly and concisely, says Laurie Battaglia, CEO & Workplace Strategist with Aligned at Work. “Applicants can google the term and find lists of questions to practice from,” Battaglia says. “Practice and preparation is needed to do this well.”
2. Face-to-face interviews are sometimes replaced with automated interviews — A “one-way” interview is a common employer request these days, says Sharon-Frances Moore, president of Shances, an etiquette and corporate conduct coaching business in New York. “One-way interviews that use pre-taped questions and webcams to record answers places the interviewee at a disadvantage,” Moore says. “This method of interviewing does not allow the interviewee to read the interviewer’s reactions to their questions. Interviewer cues such as body language and tone changes can help the interviewee determine how they can adjust their answers to get a better outcome. Simply put, one-way interviews make it impossible to “vibe with the interviewer.”
3. Work for the company you want to work for — even before they hire you — Questions are often being replaced by testing candidates on the spot in a real-life scenario in order to get a better understanding of the skills and motivation of a job applicant, says Karin Schroeck-Singh, founder of CareerHeads.com. You can bring hard copies to a job interview, but depending on the type of job, visual portfolio samples might support your application in a more effective way. And if you really want a leg up on the competition, do your work for them before they hire you. “A web designer who brings along his tablet or computer and shows a potential employer the websites s/he created for various clients is good,” Schroeck-Singh says. “However, for me, the candidate who would stand out would be the one who can already show me how a company’s website could look. It would prove that the candidate already thought about it, studied the company’s background and rolled up his sleeves before getting to the interview stage.”
4. Have an online presence — You may abhor social media. No one is asking you to Snapchat about your day, but you’re going to have to suck it up and, at the very least, create a LinkedIn account your employer can easily find and reference. “Recruiters are using it more than ever; you may even be found that way,” Battaglia says. “Your LinkedIn profile should support your resume and vice versa. Make sure it tells your story well and professionally. And put a head shot on LinkedIn in professional attire.”
5. Clean up your online presence — Before you send out your resume, make sure your LinkedIn is up-to-date and that you’ve deleted any and all weirdness from your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Recruiters are getting their first impression of you from your online presence and you won’t get your foot in the door if you use yours to vent about your ex and old boss. “Several statistics have shown that publishing inappropriate content online (text, comments, pictures, videos, etc.) are a clear turn-off and have often led HR Managers to reject candidates before making them an offer,” says Schroeck-Singh. “I started reviewing peoples’ online accounts and it always surprises me that people often do not realize how career-damaging it can be, what they post online. One might have a great CV, an impressive cover letter, a perfect interview, but if the last source an employer is looking at is his online reputation (on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) all the great impressions that the candidate gave can vanish in a matter of seconds.”
6. When questions are zanier than you remember, roll with it — In addition to asking you questions that pertain to the position at hand, some HR reps are challenging interviewees with creative, but tricky questions such as, “How do you fit a giraffe in a fridge?” in an effort to get a sense of your thought process, creativity and approach to problems, says Brandi Britton, district president of Office Team. “Other off-the-wall questions, such as ‘If you could interview any three people, living or dead, who would they be?’ can help employers learn more about your work style or personality,” Britton says.
7. There’s a good chance you’ll be interviewed by (or with) a group of people — Everyone is pressed for time these days. Companies may conduct panel interviews because it’s an efficient way to get candidates through several job interviews in a timely fashion, Britton says. And, while less common, some employers even conduct group interviews with multiple candidates simultaneously to observe their interpersonal skills.
8. Know the company inside and out — An employer is always going to ask you if you have any questions (the one constant that will probably never change). Always have questions and make sure they align with the painstaking research you’ve done about the company by googling them, checking out Glassdoor and even stalking their company page on LinkedIn. Look on the bright side: It’s easier now than ever before to do your homework before an interview.
9. Send a thank-you note or email — Some old-timey pleasantries you learned from your mother are still appreciated today. “Sending a thank-you note after the interview may seem old-fashioned, but hiring managers still appreciate receiving one,” Britton says. “Plus, it’s an opportunity to reassert your professionalism and desire for the job.”