Why Job Interviews Start With the Same Obvious-Sounding Questions

Joseph Serwach

“Tell me your job history,’’ they ask (while reading the same information from your resume)

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4WVE3Y_0YzqNeqh00 Image by Dom Ide from Pixabay

Zoom changes the tools and tactics, but the questions of job interviews remain the same.

When a recruiter calls, their first question is (nearly always) to ask you to review your job history.

We are sometimes tempted to think, “Didn’t you know my job history before calling me?” The fact that you’re getting a call means you jumped out to someone as special, so why is it almost always the same sorts of questions?

They are basically asking for your life story, but they really only want to hear specific parts that best fit their organization’s needs.

There are three types of job interviewers, and each is looking for something slightly different:

  1. The Recruiter/HR person/Headhunter needs to recommend multiple candidates, and they need to write a summary saying why they’re recommending you. They want your answers to help them write their recommendation for them. Otherwise, they’re onto the next one.
  2. The Supervisor/Owner is focused on finding the right “fit,” return on investment, and making sure your presence doesn’t hurt their organization. If you aren’t the right “fit,” they’ll have to fire you, and that will embarrass them because they don’t want to feel like they messed up by making the wrong hire.
  3. The search committee member/potential peer is focused more on a safe pick. They are there to make a recommendation and worry about making the mistake of recommending “the wrong pick.” In bigger organizations, they may be reading questions someone else wrote for them. They’re comparing you to the other candidates.

Research: Most people spend six seconds looking at a resume…

Did the person calling you for your interview actually read your resume? Well, not exactly — often, computers screen resumes first.

Even when they’re doing all the work, humans don’t read every word on a resume. More likely, they scanned it, and a few things about you made you “jump out.” The rest is easy to pass over.

Technology at bigger organizations is reviewing your resume, looking to match your resume with their job description. Computers literally match words, so submitting their own job description will make those words match more easily.

Humans need to make sure you’re the person your resume says you are. The typical first human review of a resume lasts about six seconds.

Recruiters and resume readers first look at four things:

1. Your name.

2. Where you last worked and what you did there.

3. Where you worked before that (and the time span of each job and the amount of time between).

4. Where you went to school.

At the end of that six seconds, it’s often a gut feeling telling them whether your resume makes them want to read on or move on to the next person in a pile.

This brings us back to our first question…

Why do they ask you to review your job history? Because they want to hear how you condense information and whether you know their organization and your own strengths well enough to boil it down into a convincing pitch.

That convincing pitch — including elevator pitch or T-shirt pitch — means boiling down your story into the length of a conversation two people could have on an elevator ride or (more succinctly) the headline or length of a message you’d read (and remember) from a T-shirt.

They also want to know:

  1. Why you are the right fit for the job they need to fill (and why your experience solves the problem they are trying to tackle).
  2. How you present yourself. Presentation matters.
  3. The story of how your experiences bring something to the table. You can get tripped up thinking they want to hear every single thing you’ve done in your life. Actually, they want you to connect the dots showing how your story meshes well with theirs.

Your Story + Your Identity = Mission

The story you believe about yourself combined with your identity (who you know yourself to be) should explain your mission (what you are called to do in life).

If your story and identity add up to a mission that dovetails with the mission the organization hopes to fill, then everything meshes.

Think of the recruiter or headhunter as a matchmaker

They are literally trying to connect 2+2 to equal 4. That means if they rank you as a “3” (overqualified) or a “1” (underqualified), the numbers don’t fit.

So they move on, literally trying to make the selected candidates fit their client’s need. A long-term job is like a marriage, and few people are “the right fit.’’ So they are literally trying to match you with the right role.

Not even you have read your entire resume recently…

Few people start a resume “from scratch’’ (unless they are very young). Typically, you start with your “old resume’’ and “punch it up’’ or tweak things to fit.

It can take hours or days to create a resume or resume/cover letter/presentation/portfolio from scratch. Every part of your resume should be reviewed and condensed over time.

Zoom advantage: When you get to the Zoom stage…

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3w9IB4_0YzqNeqh00 Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

We forget most words but remember the images that create first impressions.

When one of my public relations clients got an interview on Fox News recently, they asked him to Zoom in from home. We made sure that every single item in the picture supported the story he wanted to tell:

That meant that if you watched his interview, you also saw a globe on his living room shelf (spun to show off his corner of America) as well as a family portrait reminding you he’s a family man.

Surprisingly, most TV guests and even more Zoom users give their “background images’’ little to no thought. That includes Jeffrey Toobin’s career-ending Zoom meeting and the Fox contributor pontificating with a very distracting portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong in the background.

The gift of Zoom? The meeting organizer creates a link for your meeting, which allows you to click on the link early — long before your interview — to review audio quality and the exact picture you’ll be projecting hours before your interview. You can even modify and enhance the picture and backgrounds, looking at every detail.

That ability to “see yourself on Zoom” is a huge advantage over a traditional interview where you literally can only “look in the mirror” before walking into the interview.

Every job interview remains centered on your ability to show you fit with what they need.

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Story + Identity = Mission

Brighton, MI

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