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Job Interviewing Part I
I have an interview for a job tomorrow, so the purpose of this article is to organize my thoughts and prepare for the interview.
It may be good to go to the interview without prepared answers thinking, perhaps, that if you prepare your answers will be tough and well-rehearsed, and if you “wing” your answers they will sound natural, and show you the truth, but I’m afraid that may not be the way to look at it.
Maybe it doesn’t sound so bad to rehearse a little and be over prepared. Maybe a little stubbornness will send the message that the work is important to you enough that you’re prepared. Someone who cares about how they present themselves should be more valuable than someone who “wings it.” The “wing it” person can range from caviler, egocentric, narcissistic, arrogant, and a big ole full-of-‘m-self blowhard.
Now I have interviewed once since moving to Oklahoma City. I applied the day before our terrible car accident, so when I went to the interview I was still a little nervous. I didn’t prepare. When they asked if I had any questions I said no. And, by the way, I was not selected for the job.
One of the advantages of interviewing for a job and not being selected is that you get an idea of what to expect. In my case, I will be interviewing tomorrow for the same job I interviewed for before. It’s in a different office, but it’s the same job title, and job description. Since this is an Oklahoma State job, and they probably have trainings and workshops/seminars on how to hire, so I guess I can expect the same questions I got last time.
The trend lately seems to be that when you go to an interview you sit in the “hot seat” at the end of a conference table, and there are three or four people sitting around the table and they all take turns – instead of asking you. No matter what job you’re interviewing for, there are some general questions that often come up in these situations. It’s a good idea to anticipate questions so you can prepare to answer them ahead of time. It’s hard to be surprised by things you expect.
Frequently asked questions:
What are your major strengths?
It’s hard to brag about yourself, and it doesn’t sound like bragging, but that’s the task here. Focus on your work accomplishments that apply to the job you’re looking for. Don’t lie. Be selective about the things you reveal. Don’t answer questions that aren’t asked.
I worry about doing things right, and doing things at the right time.
I am supportive of co-workers, and easy to get along with.
What do you consider to be your greatest weaknesses?
I am surprised that people ask this question. It amazes me even more that some people, including me, talk about the real weaknesses that make me, and make us un– workable.
What I want to say is:
My weakness is that I put work first.
Work is always on my mind, and I am always solving problems even when I am praying in church.
Instead of telling a stupid lie, I plan to tell a story about the time I released this kid from a mental institution because I thought he wasn’t housed properly. I interviewed this foster kid who said that he threatened his foster mother and admitted that he heard voices to get out of that placement. He said that he has been asking his case worker to transfer him for a year, and he was ignored, so he just did things hoping that it would get him out.
I wish I had more questions. I was supposed to talk to the case manager. I spoke to the foster mother, and she supported what the child said. So I went to the wall, fought in court advocating that this young man be released, and we won.
Then two weeks later the boy picked up a machete, walked to the hospital, was surrounded by police, brandished guns, yelled at him to drop the gun, and he yelled at them, “Shoot, shoot! Kill me.”
My weakness is overconfidence, and not asking enough questions. This event helped me improve my interview techniques, and to be more skeptical of answers, but I had to remember that my natural tendency to want to believe people had to be tempered with a planned skepticism.
How do you organize yourself?
I was asked this question a couple of different ways, in a previous interview, and I felt like I could answer it better. Next time my answer will include the following:
I make a daily To Do list, and go first at the start of my day.
I always get rid of the clutter. I feel less stressed, and my mind is clearer when I declutter.
Know when to combine tasks.
Know when to eliminate the task, no one can do everything. When you are prioritizing you may find that some tasks are so important that other tasks may need to be put on hold, or even completed later. It’s not what you want, but it’s part of responsible decision making.
I noticed that there are gaps in your work history. Can you explain the gaps.
This is a mine. There is no secret answer to the question. Remember what they say about politicians caught having affairs. It is better to admit it, than to lie, and be discovered a liar later. Just tell the interview team, or the employer, as honestly and straightforwardly as possible, how you see what happened. If you lie, you will be fired the moment the lie is discovered, so it is better not to take the job than to be fired and then have another uncomfortable question to answer at your next interview at work.
It seems easier than ever. The difficulty comes from the fact that when you lose a job, usually, it’s not for something simple, it’s for something complicated. There are many reasons why people are fired. There may be a long set up required to really understand what is going on. One thing you can try is to give a short answer [We had a conflict over a particular case, and my supervisor disagreed with me, and felt our value differences were so great that it was not in the interest of either one of us for me to continue there. If you would like a more detailed explanation I will be happy to share it, but it is somewhat complicated]. The only specific advice is, “don’t lie about it!”
Include in your answer the information that demonstrates your bias. Be objective, don’t bash the last boss, or spend too much time placing blame because it always looks like you’re avoiding blame. [blame shifting.] Remember, and say that not every job is perfect for every employee, and while you have conflict in that particular job, you have a long history of work, and it never happened before, and never happened since.
Remember that firing often involves personality conflicts, performance issues, or sometimes a combination of the two. Sometimes a person is fired because there is a big mess in a case, or project, and someone is blamed and eliminated for the management to see that they are proactive and fix the weaknesses that can be contributed to the failure. Anyone who has worked for any length of time knows people who are “blamed” for some failure for which they are not to blame. It will happen. That’s what happened to you, then tell the story in such a way that the unfairness is so obvious that you don’t have to say, “it’s not my fault.”
Avoid saying, “It’s all their fault. I’m a perfect employee every day, and I’m an exceptional performer in every aspect of my job. They’re completely wrong to fire me!” Even if it’s true, you can be sure they won’t believe it, and who’s going to hire someone if they’re sure you lied in the interview? There is an old saying that there are two sides to everything. Perhaps, in your one case, there is only one side, but everyone in the world believes that there are at least two sides, and therefore just avoid admitting that you are a completely innocent victim and the ultimate boss consists of big liars who blame you for something you didn’t do.
What Did You Learn?
To minimize the potential damage of being fired, always, always, always include something about what you learned from that situation, how it changed you for the better, how you became a better employee, and what you gained in the areas of self-awareness, increased job skills, and overall, how you became wiser from what happened.
Who can’t improve? Everyone has room for improvement. Getting fired is not a sin, not learning from it may not be a sin, but it’s also not a reason for a new employer to consider hiring you. Employers want employees to learn from their mistakes and life’s bumps.
What did you least like about your last job?
If you choose something important in the new job, you just lost the interview. If you say you don’t like some way you have to account for your time, add that you fill out time sheets, you’re rarely late, and that you do what’s required, but you don’t. such as work when it contrasts with the more critical parts of the job. You prefer to focus on the case, but you understand that accountability is important. It is important that you communicate that you can do the aggravating, or boring parts of the job, that everything will not be exciting, and that you understand that a job includes the whole package, the interesting things, and the mundane things. .
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