Art Of The Interview: An Expert Looks At Perfecting The Ultimate Business Meeting
The improving job market means more Americans are finally finding jobs, but for many the obstacles to finding employment remain. Those including not only landing interviews, but navigating successfully through them.
Meetings with potential employers, however, can be tricky, filled with a minefield a possible missteps that may render your candidacy moot before you've even had a chance to make a solid impression.
There's no magic bullet to perfecting your interview technique, so it helps to hone your interview skills, says Todd Moster (pictured), founder of Moster Legal Placement, a legal-fields recruiting firm based in Los Angeles.
Though interviewing isn't a game, it also isn't like having a heart-to-heart conversation with your grandmother. "It's a serious business-meeting governed by mutual expectations and the sometimes illogical rules of social convention," writes Moster in the introduction of his new book, "The Underground Guide To Job Interviewing."
The book is subtitled, "A Quick and Irreverent Primer for the Working Professional," and it's with that in mind that AOL Jobs asked Moster for more of what one reviewer called his "fun" and "slightly snarky" insights into job interviews, as well as what workers can expect in this post-Great Recession economy. The following is an edited version of his emailed responses.
Q. You describe your book as a guerrilla guide. How so?
A. Even though we've apparently emerged from the Great Recession, times are still tough, and you've got a large number of job seekers competing with many others for a smaller number of positions. With the stakes so high and the opportunities so limited, job seekers don't have the time or patience for the 200-plus-page job interview books. They need a quick, streetwise action guide that attacks the subject directly and gives them the straight dope.
Q. The book is also directed at a certain segment of the labor force. Why?
A. "The Guide" is targeted primarily to professionals, such as attorneys, human-resource professionals, accountants, architects and others who have undergone additional years of formal education and licensing requirements to serve in their line of work. The reason for that is twofold. First, professionals seem to be facing particular challenges and competition as we move into the post-Great Recession economy. Second, the rules for effective interviewing for people in other occupations, such as salespeople, are different and I don't want to give anyone inaccurate advice.
Q. You rely on humor a lot in this book to get its message across. But what role can humor play during job interviews?
A. Humor is one of those qualities that really distinguish us as human beings. It's noble and fun at the same time, and can instantly break communication barriers between people of different backgrounds. The problem with humor is that it comes in many varieties, and some people don't have it. Since you're already facing a multitude of unknowns when you walk into an interview room, the best strategy is to stick with the basics -- the experience and qualities that make you the best person for the job.
Q. You note that one red flag for job seekers to watch out for when scouring employment ads is an incomplete or inadequate job description. Why is that important?
A. Look at any successful person or organization and you'll find one key ingredient -- excellent communication skills. All of us have at one time or another had to deal or work with someone who did not listen or communicate his thoughts effectively, and it's a recipe for misunderstanding and failure. The same applies to employers, and if they lack the ability or patience to completely or clearly specify the nature of the job position in the first case, it's a sign that they may similarly lack communication skills in everything else they do.
Q. Are there other red flags that applicants should look out for when researching potential employers?
A. One of the most important is employee turnover. The business that just can't seem to keep people may be just the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate your unique talents and infallibility. More likely, however, it's a place where lousy working conditions, management or compensation policies are driving people away.
Q. What do you do if an interviewer asks a question you feel is too personal or simply don't want to answer?
A. A job interview is a two-way street, and you should be evaluating whether the employer meets your standards as much as he or she may be evaluating you. If an interviewer asks you a question that truly makes you uncomfortable, you should trust your gut instinct that something may not be quite right about the job or employer. On the other hand, not everyone is the world's greatest interviewer, and we all say awkward things from time to time. The bottom line is that you look at the context of the situation, and politely demur or change the subject if you feel the question is too personal.
Q. The book contains a section titled "Tricky Questions." What are employers looking for in applicants when asking such questions?
A. There are many reasons employers ask tricky questions. Among certain technology and Internet companies these days, odd questions such as "Why are you strange?" or "What are your feelings about garden gnomes?" are all the rage. Proponents of these questions claim that they can uncover a job candidate's creativity or other qualities. Sometimes tricky questions are asked by people who are not experienced interviewers, feel awkward or simply run out of other questions to ask.
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David Schepp has spent more than a dozen years covering business news for the electronic and print media, including Dow Jones Newswires, BBC News, Gannett Co., and most recently at AOL's DailyFinance. Nearly 10 years ago, he started writing a weekly People@Work column, looking in depth at issues facing workers in today's workplace. The syndicated column appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide before it made its debut on DailyFinance in 2010. Schepp now continues that tradition at Aol Jobs, covering the jobs beat and providing readers insight and analysis into the nation's challenging employment scene.
Schepp holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
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