1. Be human. Don’t humble brag.
A common interview question is some variation of this: “What is your greatest weakness?” or “What is something you struggle with?” A popular answer is “I work too hard” or more eloquently put “Often I get too involved in my work and end up investing a lot of time and energy in making sure things go well that I neglect my family or my health”. However you spin those two answers, the fact is that they are HUMBLE BRAGS. These are not the best answers, nor are they usually very true. This question is actually a great opportunity for you to show that you like everyone else, are human. You struggle with real things. But it’s also an opportunity to show that you are someone who is self-aware, determined, and mature enough to care about improving. A much better answer might be something like this: “When I first started out being a manager, struggled a lot with micromanaging my staff. I wanted to control everything and it created an environment of mistrust. My staff didn’t feel like I trusted their capabilities and I always felt I had to be involved with every little thing. I quickly realized this wasn’t sustainable and it led to really bad team dynamics. I asked some of my mentors what to do and they suggested that I set up regular meetings instead of constantly checking up on the team. This provided clear expectations to each team member as to when we would check-in and it gave them the flexibility and freedom to exercise their talents. I still have micromanaging tendencies but I continue to improve in this area through better communication and holding team-building events to build trust and rapport.”
2. Take the high road
You’re interviewing for a new job and the potential employer asks you why you want to leave your current role. You might be very tempted to tell them how toxic your current workplace is or about your crazy boss or how the company culture is downright evil. Even if all of that is true, DO NOT talk poorly about your employer or previous employers. This is a great opportunity to take the high road and “reframe” even the bad experiences to share how you have grown as a professional even in a challenging environment. Speak to the opportunities you had at your current role to grow. Talk about the positive things – even if it’s hard. Here’s the thing, when you go negative, the potential employer doesn’t know whether what you said is true or if YOU are actually the problem. And if you speak poorly about your current employer now, what’s to say you’re not going to speak poorly about the company you’re interviewing with now when you leave later down the road. They don’t want to take that risk. Speaking poorly about a company or someone almost never benefits you and it could really jeopardize your own opportunities and paint a picture of you that is not very flattering. Smile and turn the negative into a positive.
3. Three Cs
Everyone thinks experience and skills are the most important things an employer is looking for. Yes, you need to show that you can do the job. But even more important than being able to do the job are these three things and every employer will tell you that they’d rather have someone with these traits than someone who has decades of experience but lacks these qualities:
- Character: Are you trustworthy? Will you act with integrity? Will you be divisive and speak poorly about the company or people when things don’t go your way?
- Competency: You might not be the candidate with the most experience in your field but are you smart? Do you pick things up quickly? Are you curious? Do you consistently seek to find ways to improve yourself and those around you?
- Chemistry: Are you easy to work with? Do you ask questions when you don’t understand things? Are you likable? Do you find ways to help others?
Bonus: Timely Attitude of Gratitude
Send a thank-you note. This sounds simple but yet so many people don’t do it. Some say hand-written notes are best and is a throwback to the good times of civility. Whether it’s hand-written or email, what’s more important is that you do it and do it SOON. A 2017 Robert Half (global human resources consulting firm) study found that less than 10% of job candidates follow up with a thank you card yet over 80% of hiring managers say that being thanked, after the interview, helps and plays a part in their decision making. Send a thank you to every person you spoke with – from the director who interviewed you to the admin staff who put together the booking and logistics for your interview. A simple “Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview me for XXX. I enjoyed our conversation and I appreciated your insights on XXX. I remain very interested in the position and look forward to hearing back soon and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need any additional information from me”. People remember thank you notes and it makes a difference. Have an attitude of gratitude. Everyone wants kind and appreciative coworkers. Show them that you’ll be one for them!