33,"Interview Techniques Changing; Details Make the Interview","The Interview","|
By Diana Kunde
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS - "Tell me about yourself."
The standard ‘80s-style interview question has quietly become outdated. If you do hear the question in an interview, it will likely be followed by more probing questions, a case study to solve on the spot, or even a group interview by the folks you may be supervising.
Chalk it up to retention worries in a tight job market. Employers are becoming more sophisticated in their interviewing techniques, making sure line managers are trained to elicit more than a satisfactory resume and a vague "good feeling" about the candidate, job search experts say.
"There’s very widespread agreement ... that you can have the credentials, but if you aren’t going to fit (the culture), it doesn’t matter. Before long, you’ll be out of there;’ said Russell Yaquinto, who coaches managerial jobseekers for outplacement firm Right Management Consultants in Dallas.
Interviewers also may be reacting to job-seekers who’ve become more savvy after decades of downsizing, said Karyl Innis, chief executive of the Innis Co., a Dallas-based outplacement and consulting firm.
"This is a countertrend to those of us who’ve been in outplacement, advising (job-seekers), ‘Make a friend. Create the chemistry,"’ she said.
"Now, on the other side of the table, they’re saying, ‘Fine, I like you, but I have to make sure that you behave in a way that’s consistent with the organization.
Whatever the reasons, the outcome is that job-seekers need to be familiar with a variety of interview styles. Here are a few that recruiters, coaches a seekers say are becoming widespread:
Behavioral interviews. The technique has been around for years, but it’s now cropping up everywhere from college campuses to executive ranks.
The premise is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
Expect a recruiter skilled this type of interviewing to ask very detailed questions about situations you’ve faced.
"If you’re questioning someone about the details of a phone conversation, a presentation, a decision they made, more than likely you can tell if they’re making it up," said Joe Sommers, who teaches the technique to interviewers as a principal in HR Alliance, a Plano, Texas consulting firm.
How to prepare? "We encourage people to think about different types of situations they’ve encountered in the past – how they’ve dealt with stress, with rejection, managed through a tight deadline," said Steve Pollock, president of WetFeet.com, a publisher of guides for job-seekers. Details matter, and so does the point of the story.
Peer interviews. Given the heightened concern about "fit," job candidates say they’re being quizzed by the people they will work with. That’s true even at executive levels, said a Dallas man who’s been interviewing for chief operating officer posts. I’ve been exposed to it quite a bit recently. You generally meet with teams of peers," he said.
"What they’re trying to evaluate is, ‘Does the individual being interviewed look at more than just the question itself? Is he concerned about the longer-term relationships as opposed to just giving a rapid answer?"’
It’s a good time to demonstrate listening abilities and also the ability to clarify an issue by asking the right questions said the executive, who asked not to be identified.
Less-experienced job-seekers may make the mistake of thinking they’re just being made to feel at home, Innis said. "They’re not just taking you to lunch. They’re going to report back. Be aware that it might happen. Think ahead of time about what it is you would like a peer or colleague to know about your skills," she said.
Some employers will ask that you perform a task whether it’s a writing sample, a marketing plan or a programming fix. WetFeet.com, for instance, auditions for sales jobs, Pollock said.
"We ask them to prepare a sales presentation on one of our products. You can gauge a lot by seeing whether a person goes to extra effort, is able to respond to situations you throw at them," he said.
How to prepare? If it’s a job you really want, now’s the time to go all out. "You have to invest a lot of time in thinking and preparing. But the great fact is - if you’ve decided this is where you want to go - it’s a great chance to show your stuff," Innis said.
Case studies. Consulting firms pioneered this style of interviewing on college campuses. Sometimes technical personnel, too, are asked to solve hypothetical problems. Jim McBride, who heads career placement for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, recalls a complex case study involving a diamond cartel.
"The question was whether it would make good business sense for one of the independent groups to pull out of the cartel."
Hone your analytical skills and keep your cool, he said. "It’s the analytical questions, the probing, that indicate whether the person has the ability."
The best overall advice: Be prepared, because you never know when you’ll be interviewing - formally or otherwise. Consider Barbara Payne, a program analyst with Alcatel, Inc., who dropped in on a job fair just to case out prospective employers.
She didn’t expect an interview. "I really was terrified. But I was able to pull out key words and ideas." She’d also taped mock interviews during outplacements at Right Management Consultants. "The repetition and training in the classes just came to mind," Payne said.
She left with a job offer – in writing.
[ Return To Top ]