Technology Changes Everything – Including Interviewing

February 8, 2009

As a candidate, you need take advantage of every possible way to sharpen your interview skills, and make sure you are presenting yourself in the best possible way. Many career advisors recommend practicing answers to standard questions out loud, in front of a mirror or with friends. While this is a good start, how much better would it be if you could replay your answers for yourself?

Fortunately, technology has come up with a way for you to do that. Video cameras are so inexpensive now, it’s very easy to get one and record your answersto standard questions. You can then review the recording, and practice until you like what you see.

Many college career centers are using this technology. Their students are able to video themselves interviewing from their dorm rooms, using the webcams that are now standard on many laptop computers. They can practice at any time, and use a web interface to instantly replay, evaluate, and practice their answers. At some schools, students can email the video to their career counselor, who can provide advice on body language, content, and the number of “um”s. Not only wording, but body movement, facial expressions, and other non-verbal messages can be reviewed and critiqued.

Being able to practice your communication skills, and see how you appear to others, can give you a big advantage. All this practice not only makes perfect, but it also builds confidence. A significant part of the interview process is watching how the candidate deals with stress. By practicing, you build your confidence and comfort level, so you appear much more relaxed when you get to the actual interview.

Companies are starting to embrace video interviewing as well. Being able to interview candidates at a distance is a tremendous cost-cutting device, allowing companies to eliminate non-viable candidates without airfare and hotel bills. Only the best candidates are brought on-site for final interviews and to sell them on the company.

In one scenario, a third party interviewing company sends the candidate a webcam and detailed instructions on how to set it up, along with contact information in case of technical problems. When the candidate is ready to begin, the questions appear. The candidate has a set amount of time to read/watch the question, then answer on camera. The candidate can rehearse as many times until comfortable with the final submission. Employers are looking not only for technical skills along with the highly valued soft skills. If you display promise in both areas then you could get the prized face-to-face interview. This could give you the advantage you need.

When recording an interview, there are several things to keep in mind. Make sure you have a quiet location with no background noise, and ideally a blank or visually boring wall behind you with no inappropriate items in view. Dress professionally, just as you would for an in-person interview. You never know what will show up on camera, and it will make you feel more professional.

As more and more organizations start to use this technology, your familiarity with it can only help you. And who knows, you may become a YouTube star! ACS is paying attention to this growing trend, so stay tuned for announcements of new developments in this area.

This article was written by freelance technical writer Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants, and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006).

New Member Benefit: ACS Careers Joins Forces with InterviewStream

ACS Careers and InterviewStream are joining forces to help you build strong critical interviewing skills. By using the InterviewStream system, this is your opportunity to convince the employers that you are the right person for the job. InterviewStream’s development module will provide you with the tools to learn about the interview process, conduct practice interviews, and receive feedback from ACS Counselors. Average users report a reduction in interviewing anxiety by 35%.

Click here to View Demonstration.

You can use this tool and get feedback from your friends, business associates and ACS Career Counselors (a free service available for ACS Members).

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What Does My Dog Have To Do With Anything?

July 7, 2008

I was interviewing recently with a potential new client when one of the senior staff in the room asked me, “What would you do if you’re dog starting talking to you?” The serious look on my inquisitor’s face told me she expected a real response, so I answered, “Ask her why she keeps chewing on my sandals.”

My answer must have been satisfactory, because I got the assignment, but I left that interview wondering what the point was of that off-the-wall question. I asked a few of my friends if they’d ever been asked something like that, and they all looked at me as if I’d been hidden away in a cave for 20 years. One buddy, who’s been in senior management at a biotech firm for almost a decade, explained the logic to me. “It’s one way we assess how well a candidate can think on their feet.”

With the proliferation of Web resources available to help job seekers prepare themselves for interviews, employers need to work harder to sort the wheat from the chaff among job candidates. Tricky questions are one approach to getting beyond canned answers in order to gain some insights into a job candidate’s creativity and ability to handle stress.

Given that odd-ball questions can be about virtually anything, the best advice for dealing with them is to relax, and to take a moment to think about the question. Remember, there’s no right answer to “What would I find in your refrigerator?” or “If you couldn’t be a chemist, what other profession would you like to pursue?” These questions are supposed to test your ability to think, so take a few moments before responding.

And don’t panic. Look thoughtful. Smile. Nod in that, “Hmmm, that’s a good question” way.

Years ago, in high school, I was a candidate for a job on our school radio station. One of the seniors asked me, “How do you deal with pressure?” I couldn’t for the life of me think of a good answer, so in an attempt to stall for a little time, I calmly asked, “You mean, like this situation?” That, it turns out, was the best answer I could have come up with – I was given the position right then.

In fact, many veteran interviewers say that a good strategy for answering odd questions is to let your mind go and reply with an odd or silly answer, one that preferably demonstrates your ability to think out of the box. And remember that employers are not looking for pat answers, but responses that demonstrate you can communicate your thoughts, that you are intelligent, that you have self-confidence, and that you can adapt when thrown a curve.

This article was written by Joe Alper, a freelance science writer and technology analyst in Louisville, CO.


Remember Your 4 R’s of Interviewing

April 23, 2008

So, you got the phone call you have been waiting for and the voice on the other end says those words you are longing to hear, “We are very impressed with your resume and would like to meet with you to further discuss X position”.  You are in a state of euphoria as you schedule the appointment and thank the person for the opportunity.  You get off the phone and think “Now what”. 

 Here are some next steps to help you nail that interview of a lifetime.  Interviewing can be daunting so let’s divide the experience into four buckets — the four R’s of interviewing:

Ø Research.

Ø Rehearse.

Ø Revive Your Personal Presentation.

Ø Relevant Questions.

Research

It is a very important to do your research on the organization you will be interviewing.  Current data says that less than 10% of candidates take time to do this, so this is a great way for you to stand out. 

Start by reviewing the organization’s web site, brochures and annual reports.  Talk to current or past employees to gain an understanding of the business, its services and its competitors.  Do your homework so you can be in a knowledgeable position. Otherwise, the interview could be a truly uncomfortable experience; you run the risk of not understanding what the interviewer is talking about, possibly asking unintelligent questions.

Other ways to prepare for the interview is to sit down and think about what is going to be asked in that interview.  If you know someone within the organization, make inquiries as this can yield pertinent information.

Rehearse

You can often anticipate the kinds of questions you’ll be asked during interviews, particularly if you have done your due diligence. Once you have determined the probable questions, develop responses that showcase your personal best.  Answers should be results orientated.  Show how you have made an impact in your present position and how you are going to be a resource for your new employer.  Practice, practice, practice.  Develop and define your answers and do not forget to tell them how good you are as you are your best advocate.  It is a great idea to rehearse in front of someone or in front of the mirror.  

Revive Your Personal Presentation

You have only 10 seconds to make a first impression so dressing appropriately is very important.  Candidates have been known to show up without wearing a jacket when a suit would be more appropriate. Sometimes the suit is wrinkled or ill tailored. You need to make sure your attire is corporate savvy, well-groomed and polished.   

Remember the basics — like a solid handshake, a calm demeanor, warm smile— because they don’t see the real you if you’re uptight.  And basic eye contact; a lot of people put a lot of weight into eye contact. Maintaining that is really important.

Relevant Questions

Prepare a list of tough questions in your preparation for the close of the interview.  Employers love it when someone asks really difficult questions.  Asking well-thought-out questions shows that you know the business and are familiar with the company to some extent. It all goes back to preparation, and it tells the interviewer you thought about this interview before you walked in the door. 

To further your interviewing techniques you may want to refer to the ACS Careers Advice and Publications section of the ACS website at:  www.acs.org/careers.

This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development.