Tag Archives: Interviewing Tips

6 tips for a successful video interview

While some employers are conducting in-person interviews, many of them are still using video interviews—Zoom, Skype, WebEx, MS Teams, Facetime, etc.—to fill positions. Video interviews have become more of the norm because they’re more convenient for employers and job candidates.

Job candidates might prefer in-person interviews over video because they’re more personal—they can see where they’ll be working, might be introduced to their potential colleagues, and they can gauge the commute. There are many benefits to in-person interviews, but video is here to stay, at least for awhile.

Loren Greiff (rhymes with “Life”) and I had a conversation about six tips we’d give job candidates about video interviews. Loren is more than qualified to talk on this topic; she’s been in the position of hiring candidates as a director of marketing and a recruiter, among other roles, and now runs a coaching business focusing primarily on marketing executives.

We talked about three phases of the interview: before, in-the-moment, and after the event.

1. Research for the interview (Loren)

If ever there was a time to turn into a stalker it would be when researching prior to your interview. Like a bloodhound, you want to stay on scent, following the clues that lead to information that goes beyond the surface. Set up Google Alerts to open up the flow of real time data.

Nothing says you’re on top of it more than when you offer congratulations for a recent win, recognition for a new product launch, or acknowledge a corporate announcement during your interview.

Scour online resources like LinkedIn, the company’s blog, press releases, and corporate About Section. But also dig further. Owler.com is great for grabbing the size & revenue of the organization & it’s competitors. Check out Crunchbase.com for more entrepreneurial companies. Theorg.com, depending on the company, gives you org charts. Don’t forget YouTube to find out if the CEO or other leaders have videos or have been a past podcast guest.

Keeping track and using verbiage relevant to your role and experience are great winning strategies. If it’s a public company review their filings at sec.gov. And absolutely work your magic to get on some calls with your connections so you’re not wholly reliant on Glassdoor or Fishbowl.

2. Get mentally prepared (Loren)

When it comes to being mentally prepared, there are 5 key things to keep in mind during your interview.

1. Remember you’ve already done the heavy lifting (practicing and researching). Show up strong and end strong. That’s what people remember—the beginning and at the end and it’s called the recency effect, easy to visualize as the upwards arc of a smile.

2. Clean Space = Clear Mind. Setting up a clean and clutter free space and background helps eases the noise within. If you want to go for a virtual background, opt for something professional vs. a beach setting or outer space. You want the focus to be on you and what you’re sharing.

3. Pace your pace. You don’t want to put anyone to sleep or rattle on, so getting it just right matters. The ideal speed is about 115 words per min. (to find out what your pace is you can use a speech-to-text converter like IBM’s Watson). A steady pace allows you to connect with your interviewer and oozes confidence despite the butterflies inside.

4. Eye contact & body language. No matter what comes out of your mouth your eye contact and body language will be doing most of the talking. Look at the camera not yourself on your screen.

Eye contact builds trust and nearly 80% of all candidates don’t do this. You can turn off the video mirroring feature too and remove temptations. When you want to bring something big to life, don’t shy away from hand gestures especially those that draw closer to the heart when speaking about yourself more personally.

5. Review the job description, have it handy with your notes & PAR’s (problem, action, results) well rehearsed.

3. Mind your first impressions (Bob)

In a webinar I lead, I talk about the importance of enthusiasm, confidence, and preparedness. These are three characteristics interviewers are looking for in your answers and body language.

We normally think of the content of our answers as the most important component of the interview, and it is. But we can’t disregard body language because it plays such a huge role in communicating with others.

Consider enthusiasm, for example. Your facial expressions and body language tell the interviewer that you’re excited about the role at hand and working for the company. Loren makes an excellent point about hand gestures; don’t be afraid to emphasize your points.

Lack of enthusiasm gives the opposite message; you’re a little bit excited about the opportunity but not ecstatic. This is akin to asking someone over for dinner and the person saying, “Yeah, I guess so.” You wouldn’t take this as a good sign, would you.

Expressing confidence is also important, as it tells the interviewer that you’ll be confident in the role. The employer want assurance that you’ll do a standup job for their customers and employees.

Regardless of your mental state, you’ll feel more confident during the interview because you’ve prepared by researching the role, company, and the interviewer/s (familiarity breeds confidence).

4. Answer the tough interview questions with the PAR formula (Bob)

The questions I see people struggle with the most are behavioral-based ones. They’re more like directives that begin with, “Tell me about a time….” or “Give me an example of when….” Even the higher-level job seekers struggle with these type of questions because they’re not prepared for them.

The clients who are unprepared for these questions when I mock interview them tend to avoid the specifics of the problem they faced at work, their actions to solve the problem, and the result or results from their actions.

Instead, they start by saying, “This is what I’d do,” answering the question in a theatrical manner. I put on the brakes and say, “Stop! I want a specific example.” Let’s say the questions is “Tell me about a time when you trained your colleagues.” I expect to hear something like:

Problem: The company wanted to move from our antiquated CRM system to Salesforce.

Actions: I volunteered to train my colleagues in sales on how to use Salesforce.

After the software was implemented, I researched how to use it. I spent many hours watching training programs like Udemy for new users.

The company also sent me to hands on training.

I began to conduct group training sessions which were helpful, but I also found that some of my colleagues needed more individual training.

Result: With group and individual training my colleagues learned Salesforce to the point where they occasionally asked me questions. I estimate that I saved the company thousands of dollars.

5. Ask the interviewers questions at the end of the interview (Loren)

We both agree that the questions job candidates ask can be as important as the ones they give during the interview. Loren sees the questions candidates ask in three categories, Impact, Relevancy, and Culture.

For Impact the candidates can ask, “A year from now we’re celebrating. What will that be for and how will this impact you, the team and the company?” Or “How will you know you’ve made the right hiring decision 60 days from now?”

For relevancy, “With social distancing and remote work, what tools or practices has the company implemented to continue communication, collaboration, and support employees?”

For culture, “What do you like most about working at XYZ, and if you had one thing that had to change you wish it was?”

There are other questions candidates can ask, but these are some of my favorites, and you only have so much time at the end of the interview. Come prepared with other questions written down just in case the interviewers want to hear more (a good sign).

6. It’s not over until you follow up (Loren)

No matter what, don’t approach your thank-you note as if it’s an afterthought or another to-do item to check off the list. Thank-you notes (and yes it’s perfectly fine to send an email) are one of the best times to rack up extra points.

I remind clients that just because the interview is over, it doesn’t mean the decision has been made. I am a huge fan of including an embedded video (using either Loom or Dubb) as a way to set yourself apart to personalize your appreciation, express your interest, and reiterate why you’re the one.

But whether it’s an email, with or without video, keep it impactful and short. If they had let you know in the interview when they would get back to you—let them know you’ll reach out to them around that time. You want to be proactive but never a pest. Your best bet is to wait 5 days in between follow ups.

And, when you do follow up, don’t just make it about you and what you want. Add in a PS. something that’s about them. This is a surprisingly effective—in fact 90% of readers read the PS before the letter


Video interviews will most likely be around for a while. They’ve proven to be convenient and, in some employers minds, safer than in-person interviews. However, they present a challenge for many job candidates in the way they present themselves, as well as the way they answers the interviewers’ questions.

If you follow the tips Loren and I provide, you will do fine. Remember: research before the interview; get mentally prepared; research the position, company, and interviewers; answer the tough questions; ask intelligent questions when asked; and follow up in a timely and impactful manner.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

5 tips on how to combat ageism in an interview

Three career strategists recently weighed in on ageism in this post. All three couldn’t deny that ageism exists, but the question is when does this deterrent to employment effect older job seekers? The most obvious of stage in the job search is the interview. This is why older job seekers need ways to combat ageism.

Unlike other career coaches, all my clients are active job seekers, not ones who are gainfully employed and looking to pivot to a new opportunity. It’s a well known fact that some employers erroneously prefer to hire passive job seekers. Ding one against my clients.

Job seekers are seen by some employers as “damaged goods.” Coupled with being an older job seeker, the label “damaged goods” takes on new meaning. It means that their ability to grasp technology isn’t as great, they are slower to perform, they are inflexible, and they get sick more often; all of which isn’t necessarily true. Ding number two.

The average age of my clients is 55. The age disparity isn’t great, probably between 45 and 65. Anyone who’s over 40 is considered an older worker, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), which means their tax bracket is a deterrent for employers. In other words, you expect too much money. Ding number three.

One complaint my clients express is they’re being told that they’re overqualified for the job at hand. While this might be true, some of them are willing to take on jobs that require them to utilize skills they’ve used in the past. They’re also looking to step down and be an individual contributor. Ding number four.

The final hurdle they have to face is the economy which has contributed to their long-term unemployment, being jobless for more than six months. As we all know, the chances of getting a job at this point is very difficult. In the Job Club I run, many attendees have been out of work for longer than a year. Ding number five.

Does this mean my clients don’t have a chance of landing a job? Of course not. Many of them are securing employment, albeit slower than they’d like. They have acknowledged the challenges with which they’re presented and see it “as the way it is.” However—a big however—this doesn’t make their job search easier.

How to do well in the interview

These are four stereotypes employers have of older job seekers. To succeed in the interview, you’ll need to dispel them with the correct verbiage and attitude. You’re skilled and have rich experience. It’s your presentation that matters.

You are actively looking for work

This means you’re hungry for work. No, you’re starving for work. And the good thing about you is that you’re not running from a current employer; you’re running toward this potential employer. You and I know employers should hire you for a number of reasons. Nonetheless, the question will be, “Why did you leave your last job?”

Regardless of the situation, you learned a great deal from your past experience and want to pass it on to this new employer. You acquired skills that will make you the obvious choice for this role, as they closely match the ones required by this employer.

Break it down during the course of the interview addressing the must-haves as well as the skills and experience that can be a bonus to the employer. Most importantly, demonstrate the value you’ll bring to the table by telling your S.T.A.R. stories to answer behavioral-based stories.

But don’t wait to be asked. Open with, “I’m truly excited about this role, not only from what I’ve gleaned through my research, but also because my experience closely matches your requirements. For example, you need someone who can manage projects that are completed on time and under budget. I’ve done this at my previous two companies….”

You are “damaged goods

This is ding number two and, quite honestly, offensive to my senses. This is the running belief and needs to be put to rest. In the interview is the ideal time for you to prove they’re capable of getting back in the saddle, that you’re vibrant and as capable, if not more, than younger workers.

Cut the interviewer/s off at the pass. You’re hungry for work and have most of the required skills, so you need to express this with your first impressions and an answer to questions like, “Why did you leave your last position?” You’ll be asked this question to slip you up. Don’t let the interviewer/s do this.

Tell them that you enjoyed your last position and the people with whom you worked but, unfortunately, you were laid off among other people in your department or company. To the best of your knowledge, your boss thought you did a great job, and that you expect your performance to stay on par.

It might be that you were let go for poor performance, conflict with your boss, or some other reason. Own this and say that you learned a great deal from the situation. You’ve had time to reflect and are ready to return to the great employee you were prior to your unfortunate departure. Make this answer short and sweet.

You expect too much money

First of all, you better be or else you’re in the wrong room. There’s no faking this. Be real with yourself and don’t expect to take a job that pays half of what you made in the past. When my clients tell me they’ll settle for 80% of what they made in the past, I tell them they might have a case for accepting the position.

If you’re willing to take less than what you made in your previous role, it’s because you can swing the cut in pay with little or no impact on your life style. Most of the major bills have been paid, such as tuition, mortgage, car payments, etc. You’ll actually be better off by accepting this role because you’re in a better space.

Beat them to the punch by telling them that you are aware from speaking with the recruiter that you’ll be taking a cut from your previous job which is fine because of the aforementioned reasons. Explain this with conviction. Don’t leave doubt in their minds because if there is doubt, you won’t be able to make the sale.

You’re overqualified

This is one of the toughest objections to beat. When you’re literally told, “You are overqualified for this job,” it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if this is true. You’ve probably been told to say, “I’m not overqualified, I’m fully-qualified,” which is all good and true.

But here’s the thing: employers are afraid you’ll be bored and be looking for more money, so you’re going to look for the next best thing. We have to admit this is a valid concern.

Here’s your rebuttal: you are fine with taking on responsibilities you’ve performed in the past. Why? Because you want to take a step back. You’re tired of the stress that comes with being a VP, manager, or supervisor. This is understandable and needs to be expressed during the interview in a diplomatic and compelling way.

Another tactic you might take is by saying, “I understand your concerns. I would have the same ones. However, I will add more value to the organization with my skills and experience, and I’ll be a mentor to the other purchasers. Would you rather hire a Ford Focus or a Mercedes?” You might want to leave this last part out.

You’ve been out of work for more than six months

Long-term unemployment is a beast. You’re among the age group that is hit hardest by it. According to TradinghEconomics.com, the U.S. unemployment rate is 6% which only counts those who are filing for unemployment. Finding a job not an easy task but not impossible. Ask many of my clients who’ve landed jobs.

When it comes to first impressions, first and foremost enter the room like you own it. Enthusiasm is key here. And you need to maintain it throughout the interview/s. I can tell which ones of my clients get this when I advise them on interviewing and conduct a mock interview with them.

It’s the vibe they give off. They smile, their eyes light up, and their handshake is firm, yet gentle. There’s no hint in their tone that they’ve been out of work for too long than they want. Conversely, I can read the ones who can’t pull off the act like a book. They just haven’t mastered the attitude yet. And for some of them, it takes a while to master and ultimately land.

In the interview you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to perform the job, despite being out of work for more than six months, by answering the job-related questions. This speaks to your knowledge of the position, so make sure you’ve done your research.

You’ll most likely be asked why you’ve been out of work for X number of months. COVID-19 is a good cover, but be able to explain how you’ve been improving your skills by taking training, attending networking events (particularly valuable for salespeople), volunteering, or working on a contract basis. Being able to address this question will do you well in the job search.


In order to succeed in an interview, you’ll need to be prepared to address these stereotypes employers hold against older job seekers. They aren’t insurmountable and have to be handled with the right attitude. My last bit of advice is to not enter the interview thinking you’re going to face ageism. If you do this, the battle is already lost.

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

6 soft skills of most importance to hiring managers and how you can demonstrate in an interview that you have them

There are plenty of articles floating out there declaring questions for which job seekers should be prepared. “What is your greatest weakness?” is a popular one. “What would your former boss say about you?” is also common. “Why were you let go from your last job?” scares the bejesus out of job seekers.

businessman man person bar

But the questions above are ones that job candidates can predict will be asked. That’s why I tell my clients that they should have an answer in mind before even getting to the interview. The same goes for every other traditional question.

LinkedIn published in LinkedIn Talent Solutions a guide that it calls Guide to Screening Candidates: 30 Essential Interview Questions. This guide tells readers the questions hiring managers (HMs) should be asking job candidates.

To create this guide, LinkedIn polled 1,297 HMs to determine which “soft skills” the HMs feel are important for a candidate to demonstrate. LinkedIn then came up with five questions for each skill, totaling 30, that the HMs should ask. The majority of the questions are behavioral-based ones.

So, what are the skills of most interest to the HMs who were polled? Here they are in order of importance:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Cultural Fit
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth Mindset
  6. Prioritization.

What’s so special about behavioral-based questions?

If you think behavioral-based questions are not important, think again. Behavioral-based questions are being asked in interviews because employers see value in them. Behavioral-based questions are an accurate predictor of job candidates’ behavior in the future.

“The good news is that behavioral interview questions are a proven way to reveal a person’s ability to collaborate, adapt, and more. By looking at their past behavior, you can more easily determine what someone will be like to work with,” says LinkedIn

Most job seekers have difficulty answering behavioral-based questions. Why? These questions demand a great deal of preparation and the ability to answer them with a compelling story. But with preparation comes success. Go into an interview without preparing your stories can lead to disaster.

Some things to consider when answering behavioral-based questions. First, know that they’re used to discover strengths and weaknesses in a candidate. Second, answering them requires telling a brief story. Third, they reveal requirements for the job.


How to answer behavioral-based questions

The best way to answer behavioral-based questions is by telling a story using the S.T.A.R formula, where:

S stands for the situation you faced at work;

T is your task in that situation;

A the actions you took to solve the situation; and

R the positive result/s.

You’ll want to keep the situation and tasks brief, perhaps 20% of your story. The actions should be the main part of your story, let’s say 60%. And the result/s is also brief, the other 20%. Does it always work out this way? No. Can you start with the result first? Sure.


The soft skills employers feels are important

Adaptability

Says LinkedIn: 69% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important skill.

The most popular question: “Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?”

This question makes me think of a colleague in the next cube saying loudly, “I wasn’t hired to do this work.” A person with this mindset won’t answer this question well–they’ll crash and burn. Companies don’t operate on still mode; there’s constant flow. A successful answer would sound something like:

The webmaster of our company left abruptly. At the time I was the public relations manager. The CFO asked me to take over maintaining the website.

My first step in the process was to learn how to use Dreamweaver quickly, plus brush up on some HTML I’d learned in college.

I also had to gather information that the company wanted posted on the site. This required interfacing with Engineering, Marketing, Finance, Sales, and the VP. Often times I would have to write original content and get it approved by each department.

One department that was especially difficult from which to gather information was Engineering. I had to explain to them that their information was vital to the success of the website. In addition, their names would be mentioned. That did the trick.

There were moments of frustration but I grew to like this task, and the VP commented that I was doing a great job. I would say I saved the company close to $50,000 over a six-month period.

Cultural fit

Says LinkedIn: 89% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important skill.

The most popular question: “What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?”

Although not a behavioral-based question, this requires knowledge of the company’s work environment, including the position and culture, before going to the interview. If the three aspects of the position and culture align well with your values, this will not be a difficult question to answer. With this knowledge your answer would be:

The most important aspects of a job would be in this order: a variety of tasks, leading in a team environment, and achieving the results to get the job done. I am excited to work oversee a team in the inventory room, purchase the exact amount of products for distribution.

There’s nothing like leading a team that practices lean methods to get the job done. I’ll be clear in my expectations like I have been in the past, leaving no room for doubt. I’ve been told by my boss that I’m a natural leader.

The third aspect of this job I’m looking forward to is the autonomy that it will offer. My team and I will be held accountable for the meeting company goals which is something I’ve always achieved in the past.

Collaboration

Says LinkedIn: 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of team alignment directly impacts the outcome of a task or project.

The most popular question: “Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?”

Answering this question will take diplomacy and tact. You don’t want to come across as difficult to get along with while at the same time you don’t want to cast aspersions on the colleague with whom you had a conflict. You might answer this question like this:

I’m generally a very organized person. I was working with another software engineer who was very talented but didn’t always get the assignments he was given completed on time. This was frustrating, as it effected the team and landed us in trouble with some of our clients.

After some heated discussions, held privately, I offered to help him with his organizational skills and he accepted my help, knowing his performance was hurting not only him, but the team only. Reluctantly he accepted my help, but in the end he became more organized.

Leadership

Says LinkedIn: High-quality leadership 13X more likely to outperform the competition.

The most popular question: “Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?”

This is a tough question because it calls for an instance when you didn’t come through with a positive result. You have to be prepared to answer questions that ask for negative results. Keep your answer brief and don’t bash any of your colleagues. Interviewers want to hear self-awareness.

Our company was launching a social media campaign. As the marketing manager, my role was to over see this project. I was given two months to complete the project. One piece was to develop a LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn group. I didn’t stay on top of this. As a result, we were two weeks late in completing the project. The outcome was a brief reprimand from my boss.

Growth potential

Says LinkedIn: When an employee leaves, it costs your company 1.5X the employee’s salary to replace them.

The most popular question: “Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?”

To answer this question you need to demonstrate your problem-solving and leadership abilities. State the problem briefly and then describe the actions you took. Finally explain the positive result.

One of our clients was upset because our CRM software wasn’t as user friendly as they had expected. As the systems engineer who was responsible for the integration of our software, I felt I was also responsible for servicing our customer.

Since my boss was on vacation, I had to make a decision as to how to proceed with the issue. I decide that bothering him wasn’t the best route to go. Normally he would prefer that I have his approval to go onsite to our clients, especially if I was working on another project.

I made an appointment to see our client the day after I heard about their disapproval. When I arrived, the CEO met me, and I could tell she wasn’t happy. She took me to the sales department, where I spent an hour going over all the features of our software.

In the end, they were ecstatic with our product. They didn’t realize the capability of it. Furthermore, the CEO sent a glowing email to my boss describing her pleasure of having me making a special visit to her company.

Prioritization

Says LinkedIn: Being unable to prioritize means that key assignments fall through the cracks.

The most popular question: “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?”

This question gives you the structure needed to answer it successfully. It provides the situation and task, the skill the interviewer wants to hear about (organization), and the result. With this guidance, your answer might go like this:

Two years ago I had three projects that landed on my plate. I was asked to present at our company’s largest trade show, we had a new build that had to be released around the same time, and I had to prepare performance reviews of my staff. I definitely had to organize my time for all three to go as planned.

I discussed this with the VP and told him that doing all three were near impossible. He agreed. If I had help with one of the projects, I could complete the other two. I decided that the release of our new build was most important, considering three of our clients were dying to purchase it.

The presentation was the second priority. I had to prepare speaking notes and have my marketing specialist create a PowerPoint presentation. She was fully capable and took the ball and ran with it.

For the performance reviews, my VP and I decided that we would have a working lunch or two, if needed, and I would provide him with all the reports on my staff. The reports were mostly positive, save for one of my staff who needed to pick up his game.

By the time of the deadline, we shipped the build two weeks ahead of projection, I was confident the speaking engagement would go very well, and my VP had all the information he needed to conduct the performance reviews.


LinkedIn also provides questions for you to ask HMs

Your job is not only to answer the questions HMs throw at you; it’s also to have questions to ask them. If anyone tells you it’s alright to say you don’t have questions to ask, they’re out of their mind. I tell my clients to have 10-15 questions to ask at the end. In case you’re at a lost, here are seven to start you off.

  • Why did you join this company, and what keeps you here?
  • What does success look like in this position?
  • What was the biggest challenge affecting the last person in this job?
  • Why do people say __________ about your company?
  • How does the company measure success?
  • What would you expect from me when I start, after three months, and after a year?
  • Can you describe what my career path could look like?

New LinkedIn feature provides advice on how to answer 26 general interview questions

As well as questions specific to two industries.

LinkedIn has launched a new interview-practice feature which leaves me with a sense of ambiguity. On one hand, I think it’s a great attempt to educate job seekers on how to interview for a position. On the other hand, there are limitations to this new feature.

Interview women

What should we expect with any feature that tries to be all things to all people? Where you might love the new information presented, I might see it as slightly contrived and overdone. LinkedIn has done its best, and I give credit where credit is due.

Let’s first look at where to find this new feature. Many people are unaware of it, let alone where it resides.

How to find Prepare for an interview

Click the Jobs icon, select More Resources, and choose from the dropdown Prepare for an interview.

Prepare for an interview

LinkedIn shows you a list of what it considers to be the most common interview questions, as well as questions specific to two industries (Categories). At this point there are 26 common questions and questions for only finance and sales.

Common Questions

You can first watch “expert” advice on how to answer a question, then watch an example of how someone would answer the questions. You can also record answers to questions and submit them for feedback from your connections by selecting Practice and get feedback.

What’s nice about this feature

The new interview-practice feature gives job seekers some guidance on how to answer what LinkedIn deems are important questions. I’m encouraged that LinkedIn is taking the job search more seriously. As well, LinkedIn is sending the message that practicing answering questions is smart.

Another plus is the number of behavioral-based questions listed under Common Questions. This type of question is most difficult to answer. The advice on how to answer them is sound. Career strategists and coaches suggest using the well-known S.T.A.R. format when answering behavioral-based questions.

The quality of the videos is top-notch. LinkedIn’s career strategists and hiring managers are well-spoken in both framing how to answer the questions and delivering sample answers. (Ironically career strategists are matched with each other, and the same goes with hiring managers.)

The videos are a good length overall. Most of them don’t exceed 1:50 minutes, which is nice if you’re interested in seeing most of the videos.

LinkedIn offers tips on how to answer questions. For example, to answer “Tell me about yourself” LI suggests:

  • Prepare for this question in advance and have a compelling story about your past experiences.
  • Pull prominent skills from the job description.
  • Be “SHE” (succinct, honest and engaging).

To answer, “Tell me about a time when you were successful on a team”:

  • Describe a problem that arose with a team.
  • Outline your key actions with the team.
  • Explain the positive result based on the work you did.
  • Give credit to your teamwork skills.

Probably most valuable is the ability to record answers to questions with which you need the most practice. And then send your recording to a connection for critique. This could be a gamechanger for someone who sees the need to practice answering questions and has someone who is willing to provide feedback.

Practice answering questions

Where this feature drops the ball

The most obvious fault of this feature is that LinkedIn has more work to do in order to complete it. I’m speaking about how only two industries are represented, finance and sales. It would be nice to have a wider range of industries, such as marketing, engineering, medical devices, nursing, etc.

This might be a reflection on the questions interviewers are still asking, but many of them are ones I’ve seen since being in career development, 15 years (gulp). Such as, “What is your greatest weakness?” Could LinkedIn have been more creative when it comes to the Common Questions?

Not all the questions have video. This speaks to the fact that LinkedIn has miles to travel before it sleeps. Where there are no videos, LinkedIn provides articles that don’t have the same appeal. I would rather see fewer questions than incomplete samples.

Related to one of the strengths I mentioned above: the quality of the videos is top-notch, the answers come across as contrived. Some of the career strategists and hiring managers think that acting is a better approach than speaking naturally. Also, please do not start with, “That’s a great question.”

Do they think interviewers want candidates to walk into the room and schmooze them with canned answers? I suppose the speakers shouldn’t come across as deadpan but come on, let’s not talk too unnaturally.

Conclusion

Overall, I think this feature has some merit. It can benefit job candidates who are nervous going into their rounds of interviews. There are more pluses than negatives. Now the big question is will LinkedIn require its users to upgrade to premium to use this feature?

Be ready to prove that you can do what you’ve written on your résumé

Even though I had delivered hundreds of workshops, where I currently work, I still had to deliver one when applying for the workshop facilitator position. Sound confusing? You see, prior to applying for the role, I was delivering workshops as a disability navigator.

Teaching

I was in essence grooming myself for the role I now hold. Strike that. Now I also meet one-on-one with clients, as well as conduct workshops. I love the diversity, so the extra work is no problem.

In my interview workshop one attendee asked if having to perform a skill, such as what I described, for an interview is normal. I told her that it might not be commonplace, but it’s a great way to find the right candidate, along with asking behavioral-based questions and tough technical questions.

Situational interviews are smart

When you think about it, would a company hiring a truck driver without making a candidate actually drive a truck? Of course not. Why would it be any different for a software engineer to program in Java Script in an interview? Or a teacher lead a lesson on earth science to high school students?

Many articles have been written on how to answer tough interview questions. But let’s consider putting a day of questions away and instead having candidates perform in certain situations. There is more value in this for the mere fact that candidates must prove they can do what they’ve written on their résumé.

For a lack of a better cliche, “The proof is in the pudding.” The candidate delivers on his promise. He wrote on his resume that he can write compelling copy. A situational interview makes him prove it. A product or service is described; now he needs to write compelling copy for the website. This can be done at home or on the spot.

More than a few employers have discovered days after hiring an administrative assistant that he can’t, in fact, perform a task like creating pivot tables in Excel. Had the employer conduced a situational interview, they wouldn’t have come across this problem.

The circumstance would be more dire if a company hired a project manager without having said person present a 30, 60, 90 day plan of how she would oversee the implementation and follow-through of a testing software and hardware product.

Preparing for a situational interview

I’m sure you’ve heard about preparing for an interview—I mean really preparing—a bazillion times. You’ve been told you need to research the position, company, and industry. And if you’re really on top of it, you’ll research the people whom are interviewing you.

I asked one of my former clients how he would prepare for a situational interview. The surprise on his face was evident. Would he actually have to do that? He might. As a social media manager, he might have to write a 30, 60, 90 day plan on how he would develop a social media campaign.

The best case scenario and fairest of all is being told before an interview of the project a person has to complete, but this isn’t always the case. Like a truck driver who has to drive a dump truck, you might have to deliver a technical training class.

Ideally you know someone who works in the company for which you’re interviewing. You could ask that person if he knows how the interview process will  go. Your mole tells you the last person had to write a 30, 60, 90 day plan on the spot. Having a mole in the company who can provide you with this information is ideal, but often not possible.

You might reach out to the hiring team and ask if you’ll be participating in a situational interview, stating that you want to be as prepared as possible. Sound desperate? Perhaps. Maybe they’ll tell you; maybe they’ll leave you in the dark.

If you have no inside information, carefully comb through the job description to determine which of the requirements are most important. For example: top of the list is, “Analyze and track operational and financial metrics.” You might predict that you’ll have to perform part of this task, either before, during, or after the interview.

Preparation might not be an option

At the very least, you need to know that these types of interviews exist. They’ve been around forever, it seems. I had to create a flyer for a workshop program when I applied for a job in career development. Of course I busted my ass doing it. In the end, I didn’t get the job, and the organization had the results of my hard work. Hmm.

One of my clients was told specifically by HR that he wouldn’t have to solve a software problem in an interview. However, the hiring manager had different ideas. In the interview, he was told to go to the whiteboard and solve a problem.


One of the secrets of doing well in an interview, any type of interview, is expecting anything. Don’t be surprised by the types of questions asked, and don’t be surprised if you have to prove what you assert on your résumé.

Photo: Flickr, Marilyn Kaggen