Momentum

Prepare for an interview

Interviews can be intimidating and nerve-racking, but at Momentum we are there for our candidates every step of the way. Since we know what most companies are looking for, we like to sit down with each of our candidates and help them feel confident in their upcoming interview(s). We put together this little "Interview Training Agenda" to help prepare anyone going through the interview process. Good Luck!

The Interview
It’s time to go into an interview, which could impact your life greatly. It could be one of the most important experiences of your life, and it needs to be treated as such! So, what is an interview and its purpose?
 
An interview is defined as “an intense exchange of information.”
 
Interview Purpose:
  • The company learns about you
  • You learn about the company
  • Mutually agree that you and the company are a good ‘match’
 
Understanding interview strategy:
  • Company – wants to predict your behavior
  • You - want to understand the position and the company
 
To understand your knowledge, companies look at 3 categories:
  • Education and training
  • Work experience
  • Technical skills
 
How does a company predict how you will behave?
  • Eye contact, dress, posture, promptness, professionalism, enthusiasm, etc.
  • Motivators – why have you made the decisions you’ve made, what motivates you, etc.
  • Behavioral traits or interpersonal skills
    • Achievement oriented: You constantly strive to accomplish goals and objectives.
    • Adaptable/Flexible: You can easily adjust to new routines, systems, situations, procedures and people.
    • Ambitious: You are dedicated to climbing the corporate ladder.
    • Analytical: You use facts, data and logic when making decisions.
    • Calm: You are able to maintain composure during stressful times or in emergency situations.
    • Conventional thinker: You usually follow traditional, standard methods of behavior and beliefs.
    • Cooperative: You are willing to work with and help others whenever possible or necessary.
    • Delegate minded: You are willing and capable of assigning work tasks to subordinates.
    • Dependable: You can always be counted on to get the work done.
    • Detailed oriented: You can easily spot minute details in written materials, pictures, graphics, etc.
    • Diplomatic: You are skilled at dealing with sensitive matters without offending others.
    • Direct: You are capable of dealing honestly and openly with others, regardless of the subject matter.
    • Extrovert: You are outgoing, sociable and prefer to work with people.
    • Fast paced/high energy: You prefer to work quickly and at a high level of energy.
    • Independent: You prefer working alone, following your own lead and setting your own direction.
    • Innovative: You are skilled at creating new products, services or ways of doing things.
    • Introvert: You are reserved, shy and prefer to work by yourself.
    • Intuitive: You have a strong internal sense of what's right without relying on facts or data.
    • Leader: You are willing and capable of taking charge and leading others.
    • Moralistic: You prefer to follow conventional, traditional beliefs that are accepted by most people.
    • People oriented: You are sensitive and responsive to the needs of others.
    • Persuasive: You can easily persuade other people to agree with your line of thinking.
    • Open-minded: You are willing to consider ideas, beliefs and practices different from your own.
    • Persistent: You rarely give up until you've succeeded at your work.
    • Proactive: You instinctively anticipate what might or should happen and usually act earlier than others.
    • Reactive: You prefer to wait until things happen before you decide how to react.
    • Risk taker: You are willing to take chances even when the odds are against you.
    • Routine oriented: You prefer work that rarely ever changes.
    • Stress tolerant: You are capable of handling stressful situations without it affecting you negatively.
    • Team player: You are willing and capable of working with a group of others to reach a common goal.
 
Your interview responsibilities:
  • Communicate how you fit the job requirements
  • Ask questions to see if there are other reasons why you are a good fit
  • Learn about the position, company, and expectations
 
 
The STAR Approach for answering interview questions
Regardless of an individual’s experience and knowledge, being able to concisely articulate your background is one of the most critical pieces of an interview!  Below is a proven process for framing your answers.
 
During an interview, always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely. Your interview preparation should include identifying examples of situations from your experiences on your resume where you have demonstrated the behaviors a given company seeks. During the interview, your responses need to be specific and detailed. Tell them about a particular situation that relates to the question, not a general one. Briefly tell them about the situation, what you did specifically, and the positive result or outcome. Your answer should contain these four steps (Situation, Task, Action, Result or "STAR") for optimum success.

STAR Method
Situation: Give an example where you helped influence the direction of a specific project…what was the situation?
Task: Describe the tasks or pertaining details involved in that situation…why was an action needed?
Action: Talk about the various actions involved in the situation’s task
Results: What results directly followed because of your actions



It is helpful to frame your answer as a story that you can tell. Typically, the interviewer will pick apart the story to try to get at the specific behavior(s) they seek. They refer to this as "digging a well." The interviewer will sometimes ask you open ended questions to allow you to choose which examples you wish to use. When a part of your story relates to a skill or experience the interviewer wishes to explore further, he/she will then ask you very specific follow-up questions regarding your behavior. These can include "What were you thinking at that point?" or "Tell me more about your teams acceptance of the idea” or "Lead me through your decision process."

Whenever you can, quantify your results. Numbers illustrate your level of authority and responsibility. For example: "I was the Team Lead within development." could be "As the Team Lead in Development, I trained and evaluated 6 employees in addition to working directly with product management and our enterprise customers."


 
Preparing for “Experience” related questions:
When preparing for an interview it’s important to refresh yourself on positions/projects from years past and be ready to talk about your contributions, successes, failures, and leadership style. Be extra prepared to provide examples of when results didn't turn out as you planned. What did you do then? What did you learn? Your resume will serve as a good guide when answering these questions. Refresh your memory regarding your achievements in recent years.

   
Technology
  • What software/database development languages have you used?
    • Examples of how you used each
    • Overall strength or time spent focusing on each technology
    • Your preferences in languages and why
  • Examples of the different Methodologies (Agile, Waterfall, etc) you’ve used in past roles
    • How closely were they followed?
    • How deep is your knowledge regarding specific methodologies
    • What is your preference?
  • Who were the "clients" you interfaced with and where did your requirements come from?
    • Did your project needs come from Internal groups, External clients, or other?
Examples of Leadership
  • Are you a Leader or Coordinator? Give examples to support your answer.
  • What do you see as “keys” or “best practices” to be a successful leader?
  • What attributes other than direct (or "technical") skills do you have that cause you to be an effective leader?
Successes and Failures
  • What project did you learn the most from, what did you learn?
  • What project do you feel has been your biggest success, why?
  • What’s the most difficult project you’ve been on, why was it difficult?
  • What has been your biggest project failure, what did you learn?  **You MUST have a good example!

NOTE:  Do NOT choose an example where you blame the failure on others! Do NOT talk too negatively about coworkers that may have caused the project failure.  The most important part of this question is that you LEARNED something from it!

Conflict Resolution
  • Have good examples of how you’ve dealt with unhappy coworkers and clients
  • Have examples of how you’ve helped resolve issues or found a middle ground
Note:  NEVER come off overly negative about a past employer or coworker!  This is one of the biggest reasons for candidates NOT getting a job.
 
How to Handle Illegal Questions
 
Perhaps the questions that stump most candidates—and cause the most stress—are illegal…questions that probe into personal lives and backgrounds. These questions are rarely intentional; it’s more likely the interviewer is inexperienced or unfamiliar with the laws governing employment interviews. Rather than assume the worst, remain polite and shift the focus from your personal life to your skills and accomplishments.
 
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against any person based on race, sex, age, national origin, or religion. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 covers employment of persons with disabilities. In addition, many states, such as New York and California, have laws that protect people against discrimination in interviews. What constitutes an illegal question? Here’s a guide to what interviewers may or may not ask:
 
Unacceptable What is your maiden name?
Acceptable Have you worked for this or other companies under a different name?

Unacceptable What is your age? What is your date of birth?
Acceptable Are you over 18 years of age?    

Unacceptable Does your husband/wife need a job for you to able to relocate?
Acceptable Is there anything we should know about that would make it difficult for you to relocate?    

Unacceptable What religion do you practice?
Acceptable This job requires work on Saturdays. Is that a problem?     

Unacceptable What is your native language?
Acceptable What languages do you read, speak, or write fluently?      

Unacceptable Would you need reasonable accommodation in this job?
Acceptable Can you perform this function with or without reasonable accommodation?   

Unacceptable How much alcohol do you drink each week?
Acceptable Do you drink alcohol?         

Unacceptable How many days were you sick last year?
Acceptable How many days were you absent from work last year?       
 
As a candidate, you may feel caught between a rock and a hard place when asked an inappropriate question. If you do answer, you could be providing information that results in not getting an offer; if you don’t answer, you appear uncooperative; if you challenge the question, you risk appearing argumentative.
 
If you begin to feel that the line of questioning has become too personal, ask the interviewer to explain the relevance of such questions.
 
 
LEARN FROM OTHERS' FAILURES, OR BE DOOMED TO REPEAT THE PAST!
COMMON SENSE…YES, BUT THEY’RE ALSO COMMON MISTAKES THAT WILL COST YOU!
  • Dress well (as if you were visiting your most important client or going to church).  First impressions are everything!
  • Be several minutes early to the meeting.
  • Be prepared (take extra copies of your resume, take notes when needed, have YOUR questions prepared and let them see that you have a list)
  • Don’t exaggerate your knowledge (they will catch you!!)
  • Never talk negatively about past employers or coworkers
  • Avoid the words “Umm” and “You Know”
  • Keep your answers direct and to the point.  We’ve seen multiple candidates begin relaxing about halfway through the interview and begin rambling or over explaining their point of view.
  • Ask questions!  Most companies will not hire someone who does not ask questions during the interview process.
  • Don’t blame others for past failures
  • Don’t let there be silence, if you need time to think then ask a question
  • Make sure to “close” them are the end of the interview.  If they don’t know for sure you want the job, it will not be offered.
  • Handshakes and good eye contact are a MUST
  • Focus more of your best practices then “changing overall methodologies”
  • Stay calm and composed…they may try to fluster you!
  • Be confident, but not cocky
  • DO NOT SAY, “I’ve never had a failed project” It’s just not feasible.
  • Listen intently to questions, make sure to answer all parts of the question, and always ask for additional information if you need it to answer a question.
 

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