A group of enterprising college students wanted to gain insights from a business owner’s perspective regarding the job interview process, and recently asked me for an interview. I was impressed by their initiative and decided to compile a few thoughts in the following overview.
This is written from a business owner’s perspective, regarding the job interview process, intended for people looking to establish a successful work career. Think of it as a helpful roadmap to guide people who are consciously wanting to gain valuable work experience, while learning new skills and making a positive difference in the companies they work for.
Think about it from the manager’s or business owner’s perspective.
What is it like to be in the manager’s or business owner’s shoes?
One of the most effective tools we use at Anytime Fitness to help us increase our effectiveness in membership sales and support of our members is taking time to understand what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes (our customer’s shoes). To do this, we need to ask questions, then carefully listen and understand what they are saying. When we succeed in listening and understanding them, the miracles begin to happen. They are feeling understood and they trust us, because we are providing them what they want and need, responding to what it is like to be in their shoes. As a result, they are happy customers and we are a successful business, growing a good reputation in our community.
In the same way, when you enter the job interview process, I believe you could be well served if you take time to find out what it is like to be in that manager’s, or that business owner’s shoes. You can learn more about them by researching their website, by doing Google searches on their business, by doing Google searches on the industry their company is serving, by paying attention to the details in their offices (their warehouse, their shop, their facilities) and by asking them relevant questions. Some of the questions could be about their background in the company, how they got to where they are now. They could be about their company’s history, about how their company is performing in comparison to their competitors. They could be about what they think it is that makes their company unique in comparison to their competitors. They could be questions about the job you are applying for and specifics as to how the role interacts with other departments within the company.
When you are taking a genuine interest in the job, the people within the company and the company itself, you will naturally attract interest towards yourself from the people who are interviewing you.
If you are unable to take a genuine interest in the job, the people within the company and the company itself, then you already have your answer – this job isn’t for you.
Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for your job search.
Attitude is key. “Watch your attitude. It’s the first thing people notice about you.” If you are anxious or worried, if you are disappointed about a recent failure, these things will be transmitted in your interactions with prospective employers, and they will likely miss out on the real version of who you are. If there is desperation in your voice, on your face, or in your body language, you could repel them from wanting to get to know you.
You need to have a positive expectation that there is a good role for you to play, it is out there, and you are determined to find it.
Don’t take it personally – finding the right job is a process.
Chances are that you will experience some sort of rejection along the way as you search for a job. For example, it could be that between 25 and 50 other people have applied for the same job, and only one of you is going to be hired for the position, so don’t make it into a personal rejection if someone else successfully lands the position.
One way to help yourself with this, is to have a plan for how you will respond if it turns out the answer is “no.” A sincere thank you to the prospective employer for having given you the opportunity to be a part of the process is a good idea for many reasons. One reason is that it could be you were second in line for the job, and their first choice for the job did not work out. If you were to react negatively to not being their initial choice of candidate for the job, not realizing you were a close second, you would have blown your chance if they reconsidered and wanted you for the job.
While it is important to be prepared for potential rejection, my advice is to not overly focus your energy in this area, so you don’t go into the interview process with a defeated attitude before you even get started. Being prepared will help you to be more relaxed, so you can be yourself.
Ask for help.
Something I have often had a hard time understanding is why more people don’t ask for help. There are successful people all around you who would love to offer an insight or some advice, or who may be aware of an opportunity.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness! It is a sign of self-confidence, of knowing who you are, and what you want.
Many of the most successful people we see in the media or read about online or in books are people who often ask for help. I do it almost every day! In fact, one of the main reasons I am successful in business is because I have asked for help almost every step along the way. Every time I need something, I think of the people I know who may know something or someone related to the situation I am dealing with, and I contact them for advice or help.
Seek out people from the industry you are pursuing a career in and tell them about your goals. Ask them for advice on how you could get a job in that industry, and find out how they got to where they are. Talk to successful people you know and ask them for advice or help. When people ask me about my background and how I got to where I am, I am always happy to answer and share resources with them. You would be surprised how many people are willing to help and willing to share.
Why the heck would you try to answer the questions the way you think would most impress the interviewer, just so you can get the job, when all you are really doing is setting yourself and your new employer up for a fail? One of the reasons for the interview process is to provide both parties with the opportunity to explore whether this relationship would be a good fit. Be thoughtful and honest in your responses to interview questions. Share answers and responses that are in alignment with what your values and goals are.
By being clear about what you want in a job before you go into the interview, and having completed the rest of your due diligence process, you will ensure the employer is not the only party who has a say in whether you are going to land the job – you will also have a say in the matter, based on whether or not the opportunity satisfies your criteria for the job. This will also help you to have more confidence, so you can go in “being yourself.”
Once again, just be yourself when you go into the interview. It’s the smartest and most strategic thing you could do, because there is nobody else in the world that can offer what you offer, in the way you offer it. You are unique, so don’t screw it up by trying to be someone you’re not.
What are you going to get, and what are you willing to give?
What will I be paid? Does your company have a benefits plan? How much vacation time would I get during the first year? Do I have to work evenings or weekends? Do I get an expense account? Can I get extra days off?
What do you notice about all the questions above? They are all about the employee and what he/she might be getting out of their employer.
Don’t get me wrong; some of those questions need to be asked, but maybe there is another bigger question you need to be asking yourself: “Am I a giver or a taker?” If you go into your career without being considerate of how you need to be contributing to the needs of your future employers, you are immediately creating an imbalance in the relationship, which will result in an unsatisfactory working relationship, and likely a premature ending to that working relationship. Please understand that I know this goes both ways – when employers are only taking, and not considering the needs of their employees, they are creating an imbalance which results in poor morale amongst the team, and it creates unnecessary turnover, as well as lost productivity.
We all have a role to play in creating a successful work environment. When there is the proper balance of giving and taking, there is a much greater chance of increased harmony and productivity in the workplace, an atmosphere that will more readily move you towards your career goals, while moving the owner of the company towards his/her business goals.
As a prospective employee of a company, you are setting yourself up for maximum success, if you go in knowing what you want to get out of it, but are also knowing what you are prepared to give to your next job.
Some final advice.
Knowing what I know now, if I were in your shoes, it would be more important to me to find a job where I can learn as much as possible about the industry I am focused on, rather than getting a job where I might make three or four more dollars an hour. I would want to find a job where I can have opportunities to make myself more valuable to the company I am working for, and more valuable to the industry I am working in. When I do these things early in my career, I would end up making way more money in the long run, than the people who were short-sighted, and only looking for that little bit of extra in pay and benefits at the outset of their careers.
Remember that with each job, you are building your resume, your history and your reputation. Always do your best, even if you don’t think it is being appreciated, because you are bettering yourself in the process. Leaving a job on bad terms with your last employer will hurt you more than it hurts them. We have all had bad experiences with employers who were incompetent in one or more ways, so being side-tracked by our hurt, frustration or anger is only going to distract us from our career advancement goals. Always be gracious, even if you decide to leave a job because it is no longer meeting your advancement goals.
Don’t take unfair advantage of your employer. You may think you are getting away with it, but somewhere along the line it could come back to haunt you in a significant way; it’s really not worth it. Practice being fair, practice good communication skills, practice getting along with others; all these things will help you to build a great resume and a great reputation during your work career.
If you are at the beginning of your work career, you are entering an exciting time of your life. Enjoy the process. Whatever stage you are at in your work career, I hope you will find some of the ideas in this article helpful. I wish you great success and good fortunes.
Lonnie Tkach is the owner of Anytime Fitness. He has over 20 years of business and management experience, and has led teams ranging from only one employee to over 150 employees and contractors. Lonnie has a wealth of business and life experience, and is always willing to help career oriented people who are interested in growing their value in the workplace.