5 Expert Tips to Help You Ace Your Next Interview
Looking to take your career to the next level? Time Inc.'s vice president of staffing explains how to show a hiring manager that you're perfect for the position.
"What really impresses you in an interview?"
I'm impressed when someone has truly done her homework. Some candidates think if they read through a company's website, they're covered. But they're not. Most site content is pretty canned and well polished. It doesn't reflect what's on the mind of the person who's interviewing you. If you're really interested in a company, you're going to look deeper. Find out about any recent changes and developments; dig up relevant press on the industry; read the right blogs. When I see that someone has gone to this level and has been able to form her own opinion (even if I don't agree with that opinion), I really take note. Nowadays the economy demands passion: You've got to care deeply about what a company does. If you're just looking for a job, any job, and your heart's not in it, that will show.
"If you're pregnant and interviewing for jobs, at what point do you need to spill the beans?"
Technically, it shouldn't matter at all. It's illegal for pregnancy to factor in when you're being considered for a job. But I think it's good form before an offer is made to say that you're pregnant and when your due date is. You want to make sure you're far enough along in the interview process that you're being evaluated for your work, not your exciting personal news. Once you're on to meeting two or three, bring it up. This way, right out of the gate, you're partnering with your potential boss on how you would handle your workflow while you're out. It shows you're thinking ahead about the big picture and that you're a direct, forthcoming person.
"If you're asked in a job interview how much you currently earn, is it OK to lie to try for a considerable jump?"
It's a very small world, and it's so connected. People within your industry can easily find out what you're earning, so it's always best to tell the truth. There are two smart ways I've seen this question handled: The first is to reveal your current salary but be clear about your thinking: "I'm earning X, but I'm not interested in making a change unless I can hit the Y mark." The other approach: Instead of answering the question directly, say, "I would like to be considered for the best salary possible for this position, because I feel my experience checks off most of the boxes." But I'd say that when asked, 90 percent of the people answer directly.
"Are there specific strategies for doing well in a FaceTime or phone interview?"
Any meeting you take, whether it's by phone, FaceTime, or another medium, should be handled like an in-person meeting. For a video situation, dress as if you're going to an interview. Use a chair that allows you to sit upright. Don't eat or drink. Act as if you're sitting across the desk from the person you're talking to. And think about what's going on in the background—don't let us see the kitchen cabinets or the bathroom door open. For a phone interview, I can't tell you how disruptive and unprofessional it is to have someone call from a cell. I know this is a tall order these days, but find a landline. You sound better, you come off as much more professional, and you'll be sitting still, which will help you concentrate. With these sorts of interviews, your listening skills have to be very good, especially if there's a slight delay. Don't be quite so intent on getting your message across. Take in what the other person is saying, wait a beat, then respond.
"When you're asked in a job interview to identify your "areas of growth" (a.k.a. weaknesses), should you own your flaws or give a canned response?"
I would say answer honestly, but the thing that you want to "own" is genuine enthusiasm for learning and growing. I've had a few people handle this in such a bright way—their faces light up and they're excited to answer the question. They'll talk about wanting to improve their presentation skills or become better at managing and mentoring, or develop their ability to learn about the company and come up with strategies. Those are great responses, and they lead to a lively conversation. It's all in your approach. Show that you've given this some thought. That's not a canned response—that's just preparation. And try not to see the question as a trap. If you need to redirect because of the way it's phrased, you can say, "I don't view this as a weakness—I view this as an area I would like to grow in more." What you want to convey is "Thank you for asking that, because I know I can do this job. And I also know there are skills that I can improve." If you mean what you say, it will come across well.