Simply being informed about an employer does not guarantee a successful interview unless you can effectively use the information. Information about the employer's products, financial data, opportunities or how they impact society is only helpful if you know how to tactfully "weave" your new knowledge into the interview. This is no easy task and simply spouting facts or statistics - or prefacing a question with a lot of memorized information - is not the answer.
Most employers have literature describing their organization and opportunities. Major employers provide annual reports and company literature while smaller organizations publish brochures, fact sheets and annual reports. Either way, it's important for you to secure information on an employer before you interview.
Using Information in Answering Questions:
Most of the questions you will be asked will not relate directly to the information in the literature. There are ways, however, to show how your skills and background meet the employer's needs using the information you gain. Some examples:
Question: "Why do you think you might want to work for this organization?"
"As I understand the job, there's plenty of opportunity to be involved in both working with clients and with the community. Besides using my clinical skills and knowledge of counseling directly with the clients, I also would have the opportunity to integrate my skills in networking and facilitating the use of resources."
"I see you're involved with the American Counseling Association. What are some of the benefits from that experience?"
"I have had the opportunity to attend several conferences, as well as participate in the student chapter at my university. The conferences expanded my understanding of the counseling field and provided me the chance to interact with professionals and experts in the field. My involvement with the student chapter not only increased my knowledge of ACA, it also strengthened my leadership skills."
"What courses did you like best?"
"I enjoyed my Counseling Skills and Techniques course, which gave me the basic groundwork for my career as a counselor. My course on Family Therapy was also one of my favorites, as it explored in depth the issues that face a family and the impact that the family has on an individual and vice versa. Both of these courses showed me how important working with not only the individual but also the system from which they have emerged is. That confirmed for me that this type of environment, working with both individual clients as well as their communities, is where I want to begin my career."
Using Information in Asking Questions
Next, it will be your turn to ask questions of the interviewer. It is to your advantage to ask questions which require the interviewer to expand on information you have learned from the employer's literature. Following are some possible excerpts from employer literature paired with questions that could be formulated from the information given.
"After about 12-15 months from the time you began, if you've demonstrated your ability, you'll be ready for promotion to Clinician II. Your increased responsibility will include a larger client load and a number of clinical associates reporting to you."
- Could you talk about some methods by which trainees are evaluated?
- What kinds of communication channels are there between the trainees and the supervisors?
- What would you say is the major quality or accomplishment which distinguishes those who are promoted from those who are not?
"Today's professional counselor usually has gained experience in clinical and non-clinical settings."
- In viewing some of the background that your clinicians have, "clinical" and "non-clinical" are mentioned. Could you describe some of the main distinguishing features of these two settings?
Example of Poor Questions:
- Tell me about your training program. (Too general - shows you didn't do your homework.)
- At what salary level would I be if I progress to Clinician II in my second year with the organization? (Shows your concern is money as opposed to responsibility.)
- Could you explain your fringe benefits package? (Standard, boring question - need to be more specific.)
Criteria for Examining Employers
Asking and answering interview questions in a prepared and professional manner is the key to successful interviewing. Use the following list of EMPLOYER INFORMATION CRITERIA (Adapted from "Recruiting Literature: Is it Adequate?") as a guideline for what you need to find out about an employer BEFORE you choose to interview.
- Details and Functional Descriptions of Positions
- Training Program Outline
- Hiring Process (timing, evaluation criteria)
- Requisite Qualifications for Entry-Level Positions
- Typical Career Paths
- Introduction to Employer Products/Services
- Starting Salaries/ Compensation Forms
- Employee Review/Evaluation Process
- Travel/Relocation Expectations
- General Hiring Patterns
- Regional Lifestyle/Cost of Living
- Organization Chart/Structure
Questions Asked By Employers
- Tell me about yourself. What are your hobbies?
- Why did you choose to interview with our organization?
- Describe your ideal job.
- What can you offer us?
- What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
- Can you name some weaknesses?
- Define successes. Failure.
- Have you ever had any failures? What did you learn from them?
- Of which three accomplishments are you most proud?
- Who are your role models? Why?
- How does your college education or work experience relate to this job?
- What motivates you most in a job?
- Have you had difficulty getting along with a former professor/supervisor/co-worker and how did you handle it?
- Have you ever spoken before a group of people?
- Why should we hire you rather than another candidate?
- What do you know about our organization (products or services)?
- Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years?
- Do you plan to return to school for further education?
- What job-related skills have you developed?
- Did you work while going to school? In what positions?
- What did you learn from these work experiences?
- What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
- Have you ever quit a job? Why?
- Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
- Give an example of a time in which you worked under deadline pressure.
- How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work?
Questions To Ask Employers
- Please describe the duties of the job for me.
- What kinds of assignments might I expect the first six months on the job?
- Are salary adjustments geared to the cost of living or job performance?
- Does your organization encourage further education?
- How often are performance reviews given?
- Do you have plans for expansion?
- What are your growth projections for next year?
- Have you cut your staff in the last three years?
- How do you feel about creativity and individuality?
- Do you offer flextime?
- In what ways is a career with your organization better than one with your competitors?
- Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
- May I talk with the past person who held this position?
- What is the largest single problem facing your staff (department) now?
- What is the usual promotional time frame?
- Does your company offer either single or dual career-track programs?
- What do you like best about your job/company?
- Once the probation period is completed, how much authority will I have over decisions?
- Has there been much turnover in this job area?
- Do you fill positions from the outside or promote from within first?
- What qualities are you looking for in the candidate who fills this position?
- What skills are especially important for someone in this position?
- What characteristics do the achievers in this company seem to share?
- Is there a lot of team/project work?
- Will I have the opportunity to work on special projects?
- Where does this position fit into the organizational structure?
- How much travel, if any, is involved in this position?
- What is the next course of action? When should I expect to hear from you or should I contact you?
Additional Articles on Interviewing
Interviewing School Counselors (the American School Counseling Association)
Interview season is beginning for those in education seeking to change positions or those wanting to enter the school counseling profession. The following questions are designed to help you think about and prepare for interviews.
Ace the InterviewBy Beth Kowitt, interviewing Bill Byham, CEO of Development Dimensions International
FORTUNE -- Congratulations! You've gotten past the résumé gatekeepers and landed a job interview. But even if you're completely prepped for your one on one, you still don't know what to expect from your interviewer. "You have to turn that around and give them a good interview even if they didn't ask for it," says Bill Byham, co-founder and CEO of Development Dimensions International, a human resources consulting firm.