Wednesday, 07 March 2018 16:12

Why Employers Interview and How You Can Prepare

Interview Scrabble Career LPThe job interview. There are few things that can elicit feelings of fear, excitement and anticipation.  It’s an opportunity to show a prospective employer that you’re more than the words on your resume.  It’s also terrifying because so much is riding on this brief moment. Because the interview is such a crucial step to landing your dream job, Microbe Mentor’s Dr. Eleanor Jennings provides insights into what employers are looking for and advice on interview preparation.  

The Employer’s Point of View

Before preparing for your job interview, it’s helpful to understand why employers interview prospective employees, as well as, the level of effort they put into hiring someone new. First, companies are in the business of making money and they want to have a better feel for how you will help them accomplish this goal.  Regardless of the position—research and development, consulting, teaching, or scientific writing— your main job will be to make money for your employer.   Second, an employer looks for is how well you will represent the company to clients, regulators, other research groups and anyone else you may come into contact with, including the general public. Thus, the interview process.   

Bringing in a new employee for any type of career and level is expensive. It’s not just the time and labor spent hiring you or the new-employee packet waiting for you on your desk, but it’s also the training you will undergo to get quickly up to speed. This training includes learning corporate policies and practices, navigating the employee-only websites and databases, safety training, etc.   Some jobs may also require intense background checks and security clearances.  This all costs the company money —sometimes tens of thousands of dollars per new employee—before a single paycheck gets made out.  Thus, employers want to make sure they are bringing in somebody who will be around for a while and will work well with other members of the company.

Thus, from the eyes of an employer, a successful job candidate has to fulfill the needs of the company, make the company look good to others, and fit in with the members of the company.  Understanding the interview process from the employer’s perspective can help you prepare to stand out in a positive way from other candidates.

Prepare for Your Job Interview

First off, congratulations—your resume was good enough to move you onto the next round in the job-search process!  Now, it’s time to prepare for your interview.  And prepare you must!  

1. Research Yourself. This step actually needs to occur before you start looking for a job.  This is a critical process that is often overlooked, but it’s crucial to determine what is important to you when thinking about your career. Start making a list (mental or on paper) of what items are important, along with what items are up for discussion and non-negotiable.  Being really honest with yourself at this step because it will focus your job search efforts on positions where you will find long-term happiness and success.

2. Know Your True Worth. The hard part about researching yourself is knowing your true worth as perceived by others. This means not how much your parents or best friends value you, but how much value you bring to your potential employer. You have higher value if you: have multiple years of relevant job experience, is a recognized expert, and have a proven track record in that particular field.  If somebody is perceived as having a high value, that person is really driving the interview, possibly to the extent that the candidate is the one interviewing the company.  However, this rarely happens until a person is very established in their career.  In contrast, you have a lower value to an employer if you have little to no relevant job experience or are not a recognized figure in your field.  This is the situation you will most likely be in early in your career.  

Knowing your worth to the prospective employer is key to knowing how much negotiating power you have, how many perks (salary or otherwise) you can ask for, and how early you can ask for them.  Getting this wrong can lead to experienced employees not earning as much or not getting the recognition that they deserve.  At the other end of the spectrum, it can lead to early-career employees missing opportunities because they give an impression of arrogance and entitlement.  Know your worth from the perspective of the employer.   

Other than self-reflection, how do you determine your worth?   Research online for salary and other benefits information associated with posted jobs at a similar level to that which you will be interviewing for. Ask someone who is in the field and is advanced in their career, as to where you fit on the scale of worth to an employer.  

3. Research the Employer. In this digital age, there is no excuse for lacking a firm understanding of the prospective company’s corporate structure, primary goals, recent key events, mergers and acquisitions, etc.   As your interview date approaches, you should have the name of your interviewer. Check out their profiles on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.  Part of your preparation will be to come up with questions to ask during the interview based on your research.

4. Practice Answering Interview Questions. Practice makes perfect.  Find a trusted person to interview you.  By practicing your responses in front of a live person, you will discover areas that need work, such as learning to hold your hands together if you have a habit of fidgeting.  You will also get a sense of what skills to highlight during your interview and develop more focused answers.  You will be nervous during any interview, so practice your answers to commonly asked interview questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself—who are you?
  • Can you summarize your research so far?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What was the reason behind this gap in employment?
  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?
  • What will you contribute to our company (or research project, or mission)?
  • You will need to relocate to this office location—why do you want to live here?

You can greatly increase your chances of landing a job that will result in success for you and the company by understanding the effort that employers put into interviewing potential employees and preparing yourself for what you may encounter.  

The next article will highlight the job interview itself, with an emphasis on interviewing do’s and don’ts.  

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