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EXCELLING IN THE JOB INTERVIEW PROCESS

Michelle Antonio
Founder, Michelle Antonio Career Coaching
August 2013

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


PHILADELPHIA I SAN FRANCISCO
MICHELLE ANTONIO CAREER COACHING, LLC

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


SESSION GOALS

Share the employer perspective on interviewing


Highlight key success factors for excelling in the interview process for
experienced level positions and career switching opportunities
Provide framework and worksheets for crafting effective responses to
the critical Tell me about yourself / Walk me through your resume
question, and other behavioral interview questions
Share strategies for answering tough questions
Highlight key Wharton MBA for Executive interview resources

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


WHAT EMPLOYERS REALLY WANT TO KNOW
Employers will advance or extend offers to candidates who are the most
effective at addressing these 3 key questions
Experienced level candidate Career switcher

Assessed initially through Must convince employer of


resume; looking for concrete transferable skills and
Can you do the job?
proof in interview experiences to overcome
preference for experienced
candidates

Evaluated by behavioral based Must convince the employer


Are you a fit questions; seeking specific you know what you are getting
examples that reflect that your yourself into via behavioral
for the job? personality and style is aligned based questions; seeking
with their organizational culture examples to prove you are
aligned with their culture

Want clear articulation of your Essential to demonstrate


motivation and passion for this knowledge of industry trends
Do you want the job? specific role in their particular and track record of choices that
organization vs. other roles in align with success factors for
same or different firms specific role in particular
company

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVE WHAT MATTERS MOST?
Depending on the type of candidate you are and the competitive pool, the
weighting of each question will be different
Experienced level candidate Career switcher

If role requires highly Hurdle to obtaining the


specialized or unique set of interview and will be
Can you do the job? skills, this will play larger role scrutinized in the interview
Employers evaluate not only -leverage internal advocates
immediate, but also longer and emphasize transferable
term, capabilities to do the job experiences to close perceived
gap in direct experience

The more senior level Essential to prove that you


Are you a fit responsibilities and/or long- understand the nature and key
term leadership potential the success factors of the role to
for the job? counterbalance the gap in
role has, the more important
leadership/soft skills become direct experience

Ultimate differentiating factor Ultimate differentiating factor


amongst a pool of highly amongst a pool of highly
Do you want the job? qualified and experienced qualified and experienced
candidates candidates

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


EFFECTIVELY SELLING YOURSELF IN THE INTERVIEW
Effective interview responses sell you as the most desirable candidate.
Deliver responses that are:
Relevant
Demonstrate awareness of what is needed to be successful in the job by
developing key sales messages around the unique combination of 3-4
desirable qualities/skills/areas of expertise that you will bring to the role
Focus only on content that is necessary for the interviewer to know, not your
entire life story or extraneous detail
Explicitly articulate the link between your interview response/examples and
why this makes you a strong candidate
Memorable
Reinforce your key sales messages by integrating them through multiple
examples across different interview questions
Use S(ituation) A(ction) R(result) framework
Concise
Target 1-2 minutes per response
Observe cues from interviewer about depth and pace

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


KEY COMPONENTS OF THE INTERVIEW

Fit/Behavioral
The Opening

Industry
Knowledge The Closing
&
Functional Skills

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


KEY COMPONENTS: THE OPENING

You only get one chance


The Opening to make a first impression

The evaluation process starts before the official


interview, especially regarding fit and personality
Be the consummate professional (timeliness, how
you treat non-interviewers, dress and handshake)
Set the tone for the interview; build rapport

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


KEY COMPONENTS: TECHNICAL ASSESSMENT

Make it easy for them to


Employer is measuring your
visualize you in the role
industry and role specific know-
how as an indicator of both your
level of expertise and commitment/
interest in the position
Industry Expect to be asked how you
Knowledge manage and excel in typical job
& scenarios for the position
Functional Skills Goal is to give employer confidence
that you will not require much
training or a large learning curve to
get up and running

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


KEY COMPONENTS: FIT & BEHAVIORAL ASSESSMENT

Employer looking for explicit


confirmation on all 3 key questions
Your opportunity to prove that you
possess the desired personality
attributes and interpersonal skills Fit/Behavioral
Often first presented as Tell me
about yourself or Walk me through
your resume; then later as Tell me
about a time when
Reveal how you make decisions,
learn from failures, cope with Past behavior is the best
stressful situations, and interact with predictor of future
others performance/behavior
Convey your fit with company culture
Be explicit in connecting how your
responses make you a strong
candidate
THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF/WALK ME THROUGH YOUR
RESUME: MORE THAN JUST SMALL TALK
Are they asking the same question?
Yes - same objectives: to sell yourself as the preferred candidate
No - potentially different structure to the response:
Walk Me Through Your Resume implies desire for a chronological
response with key decisions/accomplishments/insights highlighted =
bottom up story telling
Tell Me About Yourself gives you flexibility to deviate from chronological
approach and highlight key sales messages first = top down story telling
Frequently the first question in an interview = crucial opportunity to make
a memorable first impression and introduce your key sales messages*
NOT a factual run-down of the schools you attended, places youve worked,
job titles youve held
Your response should directly answer the question, What are the top 3
personal qualities, skill sets or areas of expertise that set you apart from other
candidates Ill be interviewing for this position?
* Creating Effective Sales Messages for Responding to the WMTYR/TMAY Interview Question Worksheet and instructions
available on MBA Exec CMS website

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF/WALK ME THROUGH YOUR
RESUME: MORE THAN JUST SMALL TALK (CONTD)
What should be your goals when crafting and delivering your response?
Proving your level of preparedness
Demonstrating your strong communication skills
Conveying your key sales messages* through a personal storyline that
shows how your track record of school/career choices, accomplishments,
skills developed, and core passions and motivations are consistent with
someone who will excel in the role dont just answer the what; answer
the why
Providing content or teasers for further probing later on in the interview

* Creating Effective Sales Messages for Responding to the WMTYR/TMAY Interview Question Worksheet and instructions
available on MBA Exec CMS website

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


BEHAVIORAL QUESTIONS: USING THE PAST TO PREDICT
THE FUTURE*
How Behavioral based questions work
Are common across all industries and level of position
Evaluate your ability to do the job based on your past experiences
Tend to start with Tell me about a time that you .

Winning approach = S(ituation)-A(ction)-R(esult) + what you


learned/how it makes you a strong candidate
Focus on S-A-R stories that:
Answer the question asked
Are specific and results-oriented
Reveal motivations and positive character traits
Establish you as someone who has credible growth potential and can add
value beyond just the job description duties
Differentiate you from your peers
Reinforce your key sales messages
* See Appendix for sample questions and S-A-R response development worksheet

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


SHINING THROUGH THE TOUGH QUESTIONS*

Determine question behind the question (e.g. Why is the interviewer


asking the question? What does he/she want to learn from you?)
Be authentic, confident and truthful. Dont dodge the question;
recruiters do notice and will be compelled to probe more
Dont ramble, be concise
Focus on the positive and lessons learned; do not speak negatively of
others
Re-iterate your passion/interest for the job
Remain composed; take a moment to structure your thoughts if
needed

* See Appendix for specific questions and recommended approaches

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


KEY COMPONENTS: THE CLOSING

Finish strong
Employer evaluating your level of
engagement after the interview
experience
Create final, lasting impression
around true interest, fit and skill The Closing
set - reflected through energy
level, thoughtfully prepared
questions, and reiteration of your
value proposition as a candidate

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


BEST PRACTICES FOR FINISHING STRONG

Re-iterate your 3 key sales messages


Remind them of your strong interest in the job opportunity
Always have multiple questions prepared and tailor them to the level
and experience of the interviewer; use the opportunity to:
Demonstrate your genuine interest in the opportunity and in being
successful in the role
Highlight your investment in research on the industry/company/job;
showcase your analytical thinking and intellectual curiosity
Continue to build rapport with your interviewer by asking their personal
perspective on something relevant
Differentiate yourself
Learn when and how you should expect follow-up (e.g. next steps)
Gather the interviewers contact information so you can send a timely
and customized thank you email and/or handwritten note

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


CREATE A LASTING (AND POSITIVE) IMPRESSION

Your actions after the interview can be just as important as your


actions during the interview
Send customized thank you notes to each interviewer within 24 hours;
consider nurturing relationships to build your network
Keep internal advocates updated
Evaluate your experience for future reference and interviews. Write
down the following:
Who you spoke with and key points about them
What you learned about the company/position
Any follow-up actions
Decision-making time frame (if applicable)
Your assessment of the interview and how to improve your performance
If you do not hear back within the expected timeframe, follow-up, but
dont come across as impatient or irritated

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


WHARTON INTERVIEWING RESOURCES

INTERVIEW PREP MATERIALS INTERVIEW PREP & PRACTICE:


(available on MBA Exec CMS Walk me through your Resume/Tell
website): Me About Yourself working session
Excelling In the Interview Process Friday, 8/30, 12:30pm - 1:30pm
(PowerPoint & webinar recording; Sign-up process will be
Creating Effective Sales Messages for communicated via email
Responding to the WMTYR/TMAY
Small group mock interview practice
Interview Question worksheet)
Industry Overviews review the Thursday Saturday, 9/26 9/28
Explore Industry Areas drop-down Specific time slots and sign-up
options under the Research & process to be provided via email
Network link for industry-specific InterviewStream (available on MBA
interview information and sample Exec CMS website)
interview questions, including case
Peers classmates, colleagues and
prep for consulting interviews
networking contacts who work in your
WetFeet Insider Resources target industry/role and/or people who
Sample Behavioral Interview interview and evaluate candidates
Questions regularly

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


CLOSING THOUGHTS

Preparation is critical
Know yourself, the company, the position and the interviewer
Create a compelling agenda of your key selling points that explicitly
connects you to the role and company; brand yourself so that the interviewer
remembers who you are and what you stand for
Beware sounding over rehearsed authenticity is more desirable than
perfection
Control the controllable
Details matter (timeliness, dress, handshake, waiting room etiquette, etc.)
Proactively drive your agenda; dont just react

Adopt a long-term perspective


Be the consummate professional; its a small world
Accept good news with humility, rejection with maturity
Recognize the value of every interview experience
THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES
APPENDIX

The Interview: What Interviewers Are Assessing


Behavioral Based Question Resources
Position Skill Sets Defined
Sample Executive-Level Interview Questions
S-A-R Behavioral Based Question Worksheet
Strategies for Answering Tough Interview Questions

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


THE INTERVIEW: WHAT THE EMPLOYER IS ASSESSING

Fit / Behavioral- Industry & The Closing / Your


The Opening Functional Specific
Based Questions Questions
Questions

Assess candidates Determine Measure Evaluate


professionalism whether or not candidates candidates true
(timeliness, dress candidate has the industry and role passion/interest
and handshake) desired attributes specific how- for the job
Set the tone for the (personality and know as a Assess
interview; build passion) and predictor of both candidates level
rapport skills required for expertise and of preparation
the job commitment
Start the evaluation
Evaluate level/interest
process, especially
regarding fit, candidates fit with Assess
passion, motivations company culture candidates
and personality Assess how experience level
candidate learns and ability to
from failures, manage and
copes with excel in typical
stressful job scenarios
situations, and
interacts with
others

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


POSITION SKILL SETS DEFINED
Skill Definition
Analytical & Use data to draw insights and big picture trends
Problem Solving Ability to research and gather information/data through creative means
Communication & Ability to present information clearly and concisely
Interpersonal Ability to influence or persuade others via oral and written presentation
Demonstrate effective listening skills
Build relationships
Adaptability Demonstrate flexibility and ability to navigate difficult situations (and failures)
Can be adaptable to changes in project scope or timing and can anticipate
changing business needs
Teamwork Understands and appreciates others views
Ability to build partnerships despite potentially differing points of view
Provide constructive approach to solving business issues
Results Orientation Drives multiple projects and tasks. Collaborates with teams to leverage the
efforts of others
Dedication to consistently reach goals and exceed expectations
Drives to ensure the decisions and actions take place to deliver results
Operates with limited direction while exhibiting a sense of urgency
Thought Ability to gain buy-in from team members or management to drive to a result
Leadership Ability to own and drive change
Show innovative and creative thinking, challenge the status quo

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


SAMPLE EXECUTIVE LEVEL S-A-R INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Give me an example when you brought about productive change in the company. What were the
steps that you took, and what steps did others have to follow?
Describe a recent problem and how you countered it. How did you contribute to overcoming the
obstacle and how did you implement steps for others to overcome the obstacle?
Tell me about your experience in establishing and working within a budget. How did you
communicate budget issues/concerns/challenges to your staff? Your boss?
Give me an example of something in the last two years that didnt go well. Why didnt it go well?
And what did you do about it?
What are you most proud of?
What is the most challenging factor for you as a manager?
Describe the methods you have used to evaluate employee performance. What worked well/not
so well and why?
Give an example when you motivated an employee who was reluctant to work.
Tell me about a time when you had to deliver training to employees and peers.
Tell me about a short term plan that you developed to advance your company.
What are the values that are most important to you? And how have you demonstrated your
commitment to those values in the last two years?
Whats the worst thing (in a professional setting) that has happened to you?
What do you like to do outside of work?
Whats the personal arc you see for your career?

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


S-A-R BEHAVIORAL QUESTION WORKSHEET
Key MBA Skills S-A-R Job Experience Job Experience Wharton Personal
#1 #2 Experience Experience
Analytical Situation
Problem Solving Action
Result
Communication & Situation
Interpersonal Action
Result
Adaptability Situation
Action
Result
Teamwork Situation
Action
Result
Results Situation
Orientation Action
Result
Thought Situation
Leadership Action
Result
Other Situation
Action
Result

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


STRATEGIES FOR ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS
Potential Question Why is it Asked? Potential Approach
What is your biggest Assess your level of Be realistic and tangible
weakness? self-awareness and Focus on what you are doing to overcome your weakness
desire to improve Do not present a weakness that is either a fatal flaw as it
relates to your ability to do the job or a strength disguised as a
weakness (e.g., Im a perfectionist)
I notice you are a career Determine your Focus your answer on your transferrable skills
switcher and lack pre- transferrable skills and Highlight current activities and in-depth knowledge of the
Wharton experience in experiences industry/company to show your passion
XXXXX. What makes you Understand how you Articulate steps you are taking to gain the necessary skill set
qualified for this role? react to a pressure Do not indicate that you have experience/skills that you do not
question actually possess
Sell your interest in the business / industry

Why did you leave your Assess your value to Avoid being negative; dont bad mouth a former employer
last position? / What other employers Dont try to side step the question, it will raise a red flag to the
would your previous interviewer
boss say about you? Be confident and succinct
Focus on what you enjoyed and how the experience and your
qualifications are relevant to the future employer
End your answer on a positive note (e.g. why you are excited
to be interviewing with them or how your skill set is relevant to
them)
Be truthful firms can and do follow-up

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES


STRATEGIES FOR ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS (contd)
Potential Question Why is it Asked? Potential Approach
Where do you see Determine if you know Be optimistic but realistic and relevant to the company with
yourself 5 years from what you want and if whom you are interviewing
now? you are focused on Focus on the experiences you want to have and/or skills you
specific professional want to build
goals Use this as an opportunity to express long-term commitment
Dont give specific time frames or job titles
Be aware of the firms culture and longevity expectations

What are your salary Determine if they have Try not to answer this question; turn it around and ask what the
expectations? the budget to pay you companys salary range is
and likelihood of you If pushed to give an answer, dont ramble. Indicate salary is not
accepting their salary the primary objective, that you want to be compensated fairly,
constraints but if pressed, give a range with caveats
Any question you dont N/A Dont panic; take a deep breath
know the answer to Buy time; say, this is a good question, can you give me a few
seconds to think of the best example for you? (Dont take more
than 10-15 seconds)
Think about the question behind the question (e.g. why are they
asking the question? What do they hope to learn about you?)
Be honest; if you havent had a specific experience or dont
know the answer, dont fake it. Offer to share a similar
experience or discuss how you would approach that type of
situation in the future

THE WHARTON MBA FOR EXECUTIVES