Asking Great Questions

How can asking great questions in an interview help you as a candidate?

Whether established by HR or by habit, most interviews typically follow a predestined course. As such, most interviewers are only comfortable paddling down the familiar interview river that has been pre-charted for them. The nature of an interview puts the candidate at a disadvantage.  You’re already playing on their home field; why let them keep all the advantages? So how do we go about leveling the playing field?  That’s right, we make the interview a more evenly refereed match by asking great questions.

By encouraging the interviewer into territory that he may not be completely familiar with and removing him from his comfort zone, you are naturally neutralizing part of the company’s advantage. The more thoughtful and unique the questions you ask, the more quickly and smoothly you will neutralize the interviewer’s advantage in the conversation. Forcing the interviewer to think on his feet gives you the opportunity to steer the process away from a formal “question & answer” interaction, and create a more casual, relaxed and open conversation.

This is the type of pressure-free environment in which you will perform best. You’ll also be able to get a genuine feel for the job’s intricacies while creating a good bond with the interviewer.  Most interviewers will appreciate the slight challenge that comes with taking part in a new type interview interaction.

For types of questions to ask and concepts to consider in the interview, we’ll cover that in the next “Ask Great Questions” blog.

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Preparing for your Interview

I know, I know, Copernicus is really breaking some new ground today.  I am fully aware that any worthwhile blog, article or book written talks about the importance of being prepared for your interview.

So is everyone so adamant about preparation?  Simply put, because it is just that important.  So if everyone is running off to interviews fully prepared (which, I promise you, I’ve interviewed enough people to know they’re not), how can we make a splash through our preparation?  Here are some outside of the box prep tactics that can help you stand out from the crowd while gaining an understanding of who you’re speaking with:

  1. Who is going to be interviewing you?  Ask the Admin or the HR rep who you are going to be speaking with.  If you can find out who is going to be interviewing you and what their job title is beforehand, you can adjust your approach to the conversation accordingly.  If he’s British, brush up on your English football news.  If she works in online advertising, do some due diligence on the new Youtube venture.  Use all the information at your disposal to make a intelligent and current first impression.
  2. Industry News.  It’s practically a prerequisite for a candidate to conduct the expected due diligence about the company they’re interviewing with.  What they do, how they differentiate themselves, their corporate motto, the company history, yada yada yada.  But do some industry research and identify their competitors.  Being able to (at least semi) intelligently speak about the industry is a big plus – it shows that you came prepared and are interested in the business.  And you get Brownie points if you can tell the interviewer something about a competitor that he doesn’t already know.
  3. Interview style.  If you are interviewing at a Fortune 500, there is a good chance you can search online for some information about that particular interview process: they types of questions they ask, what type of people the company hires, what is the interview process.  If you’re creative, do they require a portfolio?  If you’re in sales, are they going to expect you to role play?  If you’re in accounting, is there an excel problem they’re going to hit you with?  You’d be surprised how many of these questions get repeated – a little research can go a long way.

These are some of the less utilized preparation techniques that could give you an upper hand in an interview.  Every morsel of information can be useful when you’re in a tight spot in an interview, so prepare away!

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Networking for a Job

Considering that many job openings are never publicly advertised – which takes money, time or both – you may very well be inhibiting your chances of finding that new job if you aren’t consciously managing your personal network.  Our entire philosophy is based on problem solving and effective communication.  It’s no coincidence that networking is intertwined with both.

Problem Solving: utilizing the resources you have available to achieve the outcome you are trying to effect.

Communication: the successful exchange or sharing of information.

If you think about it, strong “communication” skills allow you to build a significant “personal network” of people that know and like you; problem solving allows you to recognize that those connections are invaluable resources when it’s time for you to learn new information – like what jobs are available right now.

If done properly, networking can be the most impactful effort of your job search.  Most people enjoy helping other people, especially if they know them.  A few important pointers for people looking to expand their network:

Start growing your network before you need it.  You wouldn’t begin building your house after the winter starts and it’s already raining.  Building your network is no different, it allows your relationships to grow organically over time.  Your connections will trust you more and as such, be more willing to “go out on a limb” for you.

It’s not about me; it’s about we.  Where I come from, “networking” has another name: making friends.  That said, if you only contacted your “friends” when you needed something from them, how much do you think they’d like you?  It is a mutually beneficial relationship.  Like all mutually beneficial relationships, it helps if you give before you take.  Well, the same goes for networking.

Be appreciative.

It’s true, most people enjoy helping other people, and they’ll do so happily.  But just because someone seems almost eager to help you, do not think that they do not like to be appreciated.  If they are trying to  help you in any way, be thankful.  Emails are OK, but do you want to be OK friend?  Go the extra mile and they’ll remember you next time: grab them a box of chocolates or bottle of wine, send them a thank you letter or even just give them a quick call – little things make all the difference.

Start early, help others, and be appreciative.  Kinda sounds like something that should be on that “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” poster, doesn’t it?

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