Interview Preparation: It’s Pronounced “Du-Moss”
A hilarious A&W Root Beer commercial from the early 90’s is also a cautionary tale. The commercial begins with a smiling, confident young man being interviewed for a job saying, “Mr. Dumbass, I can bring a lot to Dumbass and Dumbass. I’m a go getter. Dumbass material all the way. So, am I your man Mr. Dumbass?” The look on his face is priceless as the interviewer states, “The name is Dumass [pronounced Du-Moss].” The commercial ends with the candidate leaving the office quickly past an admin with Mr. Dumass stating in disgust, “What a dumb ass!”
Underscoring the humor of the commercial is the simple fact that the candidate didn’t properly prepare for the interview. There was an admin right there he could have easily asked before the interview, “How do you pronounce Mr. Dumass’ last name?” A missed opportunity but how many of us have interview stories in which we were not properly prepared? We either stumbled on questions about ourselves or didn’t have proper knowledge about the role or the company, and/or at the end of the interview we said we had no questions, which is always a big red flag to the interviewer.
There are 3 “Knows” that every candidate should have prepared prior to the interview: know yourself, know the company, and know what to ask. The A&W commercial was originally filmed in 1990 before the advent of the internet. Today, with the wealth of information available to candidates, there are simply no excuses.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
The dreaded self-awareness questions. There are a few obligatory questions that are a part of nearly every interview. They may be phrased differently, or are asked in relation to company values, and often inserted and repeated in some way shape or form throughout the interview, but these are the ones you can usually expect (and are often used as ice breakers)…
- Tell me about yourself? This usually means “Why are you qualified for this job?” Prepare 1-2 minutes of your qualifications and also discuss some of your passions to keep it real. Keep your answers concise and avoid any negativity about previous work experiences.
- What are your strengths? Modesty or humility is a great quality in a person but generally has no place on a resume or in an interview. Think of abstract qualities that define you. For example, willing to work hard, loyal, and strong technical skills to name a few.
- What are your weaknesses? This question can often be intimidating but be transparent (and don’t say you are a perfectionist, or you care too much— both are overused). Present your weaknesses in terms of professional strengths, for example, “Often I will work too hard and get too deep into a project to make sure it is done correctly and on time.”
- Evaluate yourself in terms of the position that is available? A good way to prepare for this type of question is to answer it by asking yourself the question: “Why should they offer me the job?”
- Can you see yourself resigning from your current job? It is a candidate’s market and counter offers are also increasing since companies are desperately trying to retain their people and limit turnover. Interviewers know this and will probe deeper to find out your intentions and to make sure you are not using it as a negotiating tool with your current employer. Be clear, concise and do not hesitate when asked the question, “Why do you wish to leave your current position?”
- What do you do during your non-work time? Use this as an opportunity to present yourself as a well-rounded person. If your answer is “work-work-work,” that could be a negative since workaholics are not always the best employees. Name hobbies, passions and those things you like to do in your spare time.
We have seen even successful sales and marketing professionals, with years of product and service sales experience, stumble on these very questions because they are the product. Thus, be prepared and know the answers to these questions before they are asked. Write them out to further craft and remember your responses.
Know the Company
There is nothing more irritating to an interviewer than a candidate who has not done advance research on their company. It is flat out lazy and usually disqualifying. The days of interviewers taking time to explain their business and history to the candidate in the interview are long gone or severely limited because everything can now be found online. The interviewer, interview team and recruiter will be doing due diligence on you, so you need to do your due diligence in researching the company.
Company web sites, annual reports, trade magazines, newspaper articles, Google, LinkedIn, Glassdoor (which can also provide insight into the company’s interview process) and more all offer a wealth of company information and industry statistics. Reach out to current employees (and connect with them on LinkedIn), talk to customers and, if appropriate, competitors. Sometimes you will find pieces of information and intelligence that can go a long way in the interview.
Know What to Ask
We sometimes forget that interviews should be two-way conversations. It is important for the candidate to take an active role in the interview. Asking questions demonstrates your depth of experience in the field, your concern for the company, your desire for the position and can lead to a more positive overall interview experience. We have seen people nail the interview itself but when it comes time for the interviewer to ask them if they have any questions, they simply say “Nope. I’m good.” Big mistake.
Many questions you can ask could be from the research you have done on the company in preparing for the interview. Questions could be on the future of the company (growth plans, vision, 5-year plan and goals); the position in relation to the company (why was the position created, why is it now empty, is this role critical to the success of the company, why didn’t you promote from within); and the role itself (standards and expectations, how is success judged in the position, did previous people in this role get promoted or leave the company). It is also good to ask the interviewer why he/she likes working there and start a conversation about their career path at the company.
The interviewer is there to determine if you are right for the position and they want confidence that hiring you won’t be a mistake. By knowing yourself, the company and what to ask, you are making a strong case for your ultimate goal: a job offer.
Oh – and a good first step is to make sure you know how to properly pronounce the interviewer’s last name.