Volume 49: The Secret of Successful Interviewing

So, you have a big interview coming up.Roy

Whether you’re looking for a job at a new company, or interviewing for an internal promotion, the interview process can be stressful and intimidating if you’re not prepared for it. And the reality that I’ve seen over and over again in my 32+ year career as a recruiter, is that it’s not the most qualified person that gets hired generally, it’s the best interviewer.

So, how do you become the best interviewer?

As it turns out with most things, Preparation is the secret to successful interviewing. As my Dad often said growing up, “an idiot with a plan will beat a genius without one any day of the week.” It’s with this view that I say with absolute confidence, the most important part of an interview, or any meeting really, happens before you walk in the door or pick up the phone.

I look at interview preparation as a three-step process, which we’re going to, at least briefly, cover today:

  1. Company Background
  2. Your Background
  3. Interview Logistics

Company Background:
This portion of the interview preparation comes down to the “What” and the “Who”.

Since at this point, so many companies have different titles for different positions, not to mention different definitions of what constitutes a supervisor, manager, leader or superintendent, it’s probably a good idea to find out what position you’re actually interviewing for.

Since just about every company posts their open positions on job sites (whether external or internal), this would be the first place to look for a job description. If you can’t find one, it’s not unreasonable to ask your contact that set up the interview for a more in depth job description.

In this stage, it’s also worth doing some brief googling to find out about the facility. How big is the facility? Are they high performance, looking for a NASCAR driver, or are they more specialty, looking for a limo driver to get important people where they need to be.

The closed nature of the corrugated industry can be helpful at this stage too: odds are that you know someone that has been in the facility you’re interviewing with. Use your network to gather information.

After you know what the interview is for, it’s probably worth finding out who will be doing the interviewing. A quick LinkedIn search can generally answer this question these days, and the answers you find there can be hugely impactful.

If the person interviewing you has spent 30 years in HR, odds are they aren’t going to be asking you extremely technical questions about the corrugator.

If the person interviewing you has spent 30 years in maintenance, odds are they aren’t going to spend a ton of time asking HR type questions about culture.

Your Background
I know what you’re thinking here, “I lived it! Of course I know my background!”

But for an interview, you want your answers to be crisp and on the tip of your tongue. There’s nothing more awkward than being asked a question about your history, only for you to have to take 5 seconds to try to recall what you did for your last company.

The example I use here typically is if someone walked up right now and asked you how you get to work every day: turn-by-turn directions, the distance and the time it takes. Most people wouldn’t be able to quickly do it. Sure, you know how you get to work, but so much of it is second nature to you by now, that you don’t put much thought into it on a day to day basis.

So, my advice: the night before, or the morning of, the interview, sit down with a copy of your resume. In the margins, write down specific, detailed accomplishments WITH DATA. Not, “decreased waste”, but instead, “decreased waste by four percent by implementing XYZ and ABC strategies.” No one likes, and no one is impressed by, vague accomplishment with no backup.

This will have your accomplishments fresh on your mind when the interviewer asks about them, and leave no doubt as to your sincerity.

Interview Logistics
This part of the preparation depends on what type of interview you’re doing.

Phone Interview:
Where are you going to be when it’s time for the interview? Is there good cell service there?Do you have the number you’re supposed to be calling? Or are they calling you?

The where for a phone interview is often overlooked, but is hugely important: you need to be able to speak freely, so doing a phone interview in the middle of your current facility is probably not ideal.

If you’re going to be in your home or your car when you do the interview, close the doors and turn off any distracting TVs or radios. There’s nothing worse than conducting an interview with someone and hearing SpongeBob Squarepants or Rihanna in the background. While you’re at it, make sure kids and dogs are otherwise occupied in another room so that you can focus on the task at hand.

Finally, I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re using your cell phone, make sure it’s charged!

Face to Face Interview:
First off, where are you interviewing? Do you know how to get to the facility to ensure that you can leave on time? Is there going to be morning or evening traffic?

Do you have the phone number of the facility, or know who to reach out to if you’re running late? (DO NOT BE RUNNING LATE.)

Do you have appropriate PPE for a potential plant tour?

I know this is corrugated, but what are you going to wear to the interview? You want to look professional. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had candidates show up to an interview in less-than-professional clothing, do really well in the interview, but not get the job because the hiring manager didn’t think they took it seriously enough.

As cliché as it might be, knowledge is power, so the more information you can gather, and the better prepared you can be going into an interview, the more likely you are to be successful and get the job.


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