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What employers want from you in an interview

It’s the most stressful part of the job seeking process: the interview. When you are fortunate enough to have your job search reach that level, there is at last a face to contend with. To help you succeed in the tete-a-tete, understanding what goes through the interviewer's mind may help you land that next position. After all, they are interviewing dozens of financial professionals who want this job as much as you do.

Interviews are not all the same. While it is impossible to anticipate everything that might come your way in an interview, you can prepare yourself with the basics. Any interviewer would assume you have come to the conversation with a full understanding of the position and its responsibilities, and perhaps more importantly, a familiarity with the company culture and philosophy. They expect you’ve read the firm’s mission statement and anything posted from the president and CEO such as speeches and messages.

Do You Know Yourself?

Just knowing about the firm and the position is not enough. Do you understand yourself? The quickest way to alienate an interviewer is to show no insight into what you bring to the table. Anyone can memorize facts and figures, but can you see deeper, beyond the obvious? Often, an interviewer will want to know directly from you what your strengths and weaknesses are. This is not only an effort to ascertain your honesty, but also your capacity to self-evaluate. There isn’t time in an interview for this information to be surreptitiously obtained; you are likely going to be asked to provide it forthright. This is a pass/fail question. Spend some serious think-time on this.

As for that well-designed and finely-honed resume, be prepared to talk about anything on it. You should believe that every position, every heading, every bullet is fair game for discussion; your interviewer does.

You can please your interviewer with prepared stories that illustrate where you’ve used your strengths successfully in past work experiences. You don’t have to be a hero in your stories, but use them to illustrate important elements of your character and abilities.

Red Flags

You may notice that an interviewer pursues some lines of questioning deeper than others. If an interviewer focuses on a specific issue, it likely means there are concerns about your answer. A repetitive question could mean that you haven’t provided anything near the answer they wanted to hear. This is an all-hands-on-deck time for your brain. Meet the challenge or the interview will be over soon.

Do you have questions for the person interviewing you? They want to see you are an active, thinking participant in the conversation. Don’t hold any questions you have for the end if there is an opportunity to weave them in at appropriate places throughout. React and be proactively involved.

Green Lights

The hiring manager has a list of mental "green lights" that advance you each time you hit one. There are many, and each manager has his or her own. But here are a few to keep top of mind:

  • Optimism: Does the candidate focus on solutions rather than problems? Have a can-do attitude? Have pride in describing accomplishments?

  • Energy: Is there a high energy level throughout the interview? Did the candidate express feeling worn out after long hours of work, or display vigor and stamina?

  • Verbal skills: Are answers straightforward? Are answers easy to understand, confident, clear? Did the candidate use the right words and grammar to communicate clearly?

There are plenty more, but they all share the same common elements: are you a quality candidate and can you present yourself in a quality manner? Do so, and you will please your interviewer, and ultimately yourself.

AUTHORRobert Namar Insider Comment
  • bh
    24 May 2012

    This is an excellent article for interview preparation.

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