Interviewing the Employer: Wrapping up the Interview Dance with Questions

by Sandi Ohman

InterviewingInterviewing is a complex process.  Really, it is likened to dancing with a partner.  With dancing, both partners have to know the right steps (answers to the questions) even though they are not always the same steps, and having good chemistry with your partner (employer) is helpful.  It takes practice to dance well, a lot of practice, as does interviewing.  Being a good dancer also takes good form, rhythm and finesse to make the moves look fluid and natural, especially when put to music.  A good interview also has elements that make the interview itself “fluid and natural” for an employer.  These elements include:

  • candidate being dressed appropriately for the interview
  • good eye contact and hand shake
  • properly prepared with a resume, other required documentation, and for interview questions
  • confidence in yourself and your abilities and have a good attitude
  • prepared questions from the candidate to the employer
  • an after-the-interview thank you follow up

Today, we are going to discuss the part of the “dance” that the candidate facilitates – questions to employers from the candidate.

Not every interview is the same – recruiters, HR and hiring managers all have different approaches with interviewing.  Some like the formal process in which they ask questions first, and then the candidate asks questions at the end of the interview.  Others like more of a conversation style interview, where there is give and take between the candidate and the employer throughout the interview.  Regardless of the style, you need to know when to ask questions and the kind of questions to ask during different interviews.  Make sure the questions to the employer are logical and related to the job; this shows you have listened during the interview/conversation and can form intelligent follow up questions.

Usually an interview is at minimum two steps – a phone/screening interview and then a more in-depth interview, sometimes face-to-face, though not always.  During a phone/screening interview, the employer will typically ask some basic questions lasting approximately 20 minutes.  At the end of this time, they will usually ask if you have questions for them.  This is a good time to ask some basic follow up questions, including:

  • What specific skills/attributes are you looking for in the candidate you want to hire for this position?
  • Why is this position currently available?
  • I am very interested in this opportunity. What is the next step in this process?

If you are selected to move on to the next interview, you will have a longer interview and be asked questions that require more in-depth answers.  This interview could be a panel or one-on-one session.  This could be the final interview, or you might have to interview again.  Regardless of the step, you want to ask questions that clarify concerns/questions you might have about the position, or that will allow you to reiterate your fit for the position and give you a chance to sell/close the interview.  Here are some examples, though you wouldn’t typically have time to ask more than a few questions:

  • What will be the top priorities, or the first project, that will need attention for this position?
  • What is a typical day like for this position?
  • What are your expectations for this role, within the first 30 days (or 60 days, or a specified time frame)?
  • Can you tell me about your training program?
  • What is a typical career path for people starting in this position with your company?
  • After meeting with me today, are there any reservations you have about my candidacy?
  • How soon do you plan on making a final decision regarding this position?  May I follow up with you?
  • What would you share with a new employee about living in this area/working for this company?

In addition to these questions, you also want to ask a question or two that gives the recruiter an opportunity to share about themselves and their experiences, such as:

  • What do you like best about working for ZYX company?
  • What do you enjoy the most about your current position?
  • What position did you start with at ZYX company, and how did you rise to your current position?

Typically you will want to have written down a selection of 3-5 questions prior to the interview.  Your questions could be answered in the course of the interview, so you want to have a few spare questions available to ask.  Also, you might think of additional questions, from the interview, that are more pertinent to making a decision regarding if this is the right company for you, than the original planned questions.  Be flexible during this time of the interview, since you might not have the time to ask all the questions you intend.  However, do make sure at some point that you do ask the questions necessary to help you decide if this is the company/position for you, if offered the position.

Finally, you want to close the interview.  Take into consideration the information they have shared with you and emphasize your interest in the position and why you are the candidate for the position, possibly restating skills and specifics that make you the right candidate.  The closing can occur when you are done with questions or when it seems the interview is coming to an end.

Some experienced career professionals will tell you to ask for the job when you close the interview.  Not every candidate is comfortable with this approach, and not every recruiter/employer is comfortable with you asking for the job.  Whether you are comfortable or not, it doesn’t make asking for the job right or wrong.  If you really want the position, and you can ask for the job with confidence, you might be surprised at the positive response you receive.

During the course of interviews, there are bound to be candidates that do not ask questions.  How does this impact their interview?  Ultimately, it can indicate that those candidates did not research the company/position or maybe are not ready for this position.

Questions for employers will vary based on the type of interview:  internship/co-op, full-time position, professional, or part-time/pay-the-bills kind of job.  However, asking a few questions at all interviews shows you are interested in the employer enough to ask about the company/position.   It shows you want to dance….

There are numerous websites and resources about questions to ask an employer.  Check out the ERAU Career Services website for additional sample questions, along with other resources to assist in further career/job research preparation.

Sandi Ohman is the Senior Program Manager in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She has been with the university for over 9 years and has advised students in most all degree areas while in Career Services.  Sandi brings additional experience having worked in the finance industry for over 6 years in her previous career.  She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida. 

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Constructing an Interview Story

by Kristy Amburgey

ImageOne of the most powerful tools you can use during an interview is a great story that does everything from answer to inform, hold attention to showcase your accomplishments.  By organizing and constructing an interview story in a clear, concise and results-oriented way, your story becomes an even stronger tool.

Many people use acronyms to help guide interviewees through the process of answering interview questions, specifically behavioral-based interview questions.  You can use the STAR (meaning Situation, Task, Action and Result), SBO (Situation, Behavior and Outcome) and other methods.  All of these concepts have several common themes that you can follow to construct your interview answer, and all of these ideas hark back to constructing a great story.

  1. Introduce the story: give the background to the story you are about to tell
  2. Build the scenario: provide a few details to explain the context of the situation and why it is important, hooking the listener into your story
  3. Tell what happened: explain your actions in response to the story’s background
  4. Build and resolve suspense: in this use of tension, showcase something you achieved or learned from the situation
  5. Close the story: end the story with any additional information about your successes or actions and how it might apply to the interviewer

To further promote your accomplishments, you should evaluate your interview stories by examining these questions.

  • Does it have a beginning, middle and end? Remember the basic construction of a good paragraph; include opening (introduce) and closing statements (summarize) and then ensure that the middle thoroughly explains your point
  • Are you sharing an action you took?  Many times, successes involve many people; know and explain your role in the group setting
  • Does your story place you in a good light? Show off your abilities; even interview questions focusing on negative circumstances should be answered with information placing you in a situation of learning, growth or success
  • Does the story have an end with results? Focus on concrete outcomes and not hypothetical ifs or maybes; quantify your outcomes as often as possible
  • Does it answer the original question? At times, an interviewee forgets the original question and tells an irrelevant story; simply answer the question completely

Consider these two scenarios as you decide if this type of method will work for you (and it will!) and imagine an interviewer and the interviewee in the middle of a dialogue about the candidate’s skill sets and accomplishments.

Scenario One:

Interviewer: Please tell me about a time when you took initiative for something.

Candidate A: I really like to take initiative [on what?] and often make suggestions.  Sometimes, I am able to help my supervisor by providing her ideas [what were the ideas?] on how to help make office procedures easier [did your ideas become reality?].

Scenario Two:

Interviewer: Please tell me about a time when you took initiative for something.

Candidates B: Taking initiative will be one of my important traits as a future employee at ABC Company [introduce the story].  In my current role, I recently identified a time-saving technique that shaved off 5 data entry steps from tasks [building the scenario].  In order to implement this measure company-wide, I created a proposal and submitted it to management for approval [tells what happened].  Within a month, all employees who enter data followed the guidelines I suggested [the climax of the story].  My department has saved approximately 10 hours per month, and I received a commendation from the company’s CEO [show off accomplishments].  Recently I was asked to sit on a new initiative-focused committee as a result of my proposal [another accomplishment].  This is just one example of my initiative, and I plan to evaluate the data entry process steps while at ABC Company as I understand from our conversation that that is an issue [close the story].

Although both answers mention innovation on the job, Candidate B has given the interviewer specific examples of how she shows initiative.  The interviewer has concrete information in which he or she can expect that Candidate B, based on previous accomplishments, can do the job while the interviewer must infer (or hope for the best) about Candidate A’s abilities.

Being a great candidate is more than just answering questions.  Your job is to answer interview questions with well-constructed interview stories showcasing previous accomplishments that leave the interviewer with complete confidence in your candidacy.  A great interview story is constructed similarly to any story; organize your information thoughtfully and use powerful but concise language.  With such an important tool at your disposal, you should learn, practice and integrate the construction of an interview story into your interview preparation.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

Move your Career into the Fast Lane with CareerShift

You may know about the EagleHire Network, Embry-Riddle Career Services’ career management system, but do you know about the other amazing resources at your disposal once you log in to EagleHire?

CareerShift is one such resource. This system allows you to:

  • Search, select and store job and internship listings from job boards and company listings on the internet. This means that you do not have to go searching dozens of job boards and company websites to find the opportunities that interest you. It’s all available for you in one place.
  • Get up-to-date contact information, including email addresses, for millions of companies.
  • Access in-depth information about contacts and companies posting jobs. Great for conducting pre-interview research.
  • Record, save and store correspondence history records, helping you to easily keep track of every aspect of your job search.
  • Create personal marketing campaigns, including unlimited resumes and cover letters, easily, and save them to access, print, or email.

How is this different from the EagleHire Network? The EagleHire Network has many similar features, such as the ability to search jobs, company information, and contact information. There are many jobs in the EagleHire Network, most aviation and aerospace related, but employers tend to only post a fraction of their openings in our system. With CareerShift, you can search and find those positions that are not in the EagleHire Network. These two systems complement each other well and should both be part of any job search.

To get started using CareerShift, click on the image above or visit http://erau.careershift.com. Register with your ERAU email address to receive a free account. Alumni may utilize the system for free by entering in our group code. If you are an alumnus, please be sure to enter the group code foreveraneagle when creating your account.

A Look into the Marine Corps Officer Training Program

by Brian Carhide

National Museum of the Marine Corps

The Few, The Proud, The Marines – have you ever thought about a chance to become one of “The Few”? If so, can you run 3 miles in 18 minutes, do 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes, and do 20 pull-ups, amongst other skills and knowledge needed? Those are the physical requirements to secure a slot at Officer Candidate School (OCS). Quantico, VA is the home to OCS, The Basic School, and The Marine University.

Marine HelicopterI always had a basic understanding of the Marine Corps motto, but recently I attended an educator’s workshop in Quantico and had the opportunity to experience, firsthand, the level of commitment and pride in becoming a Marine Corps Officer. The Marines are considered “The Few” because, in comparison to the Army and Air Force which typically have 1.7 million soldiers, The Marines are only 200,000. Over the next few years, the Marines will be reducing the force to 180,000, so even if you can meet the physical criteria, it still doesn’t guarantee an opportunity at OCS. However, if you are a current student or recent graduate and are interested in doing “something bigger than yourself” (as many of the Marines put it), becoming a Marine Officer is a viable option. The process begins with an Officer Selection Officer (OSO); the OSO acts as a mentor and assists you in navigating through the selection process in obtaining a slot at OCS. If you survive the grueling 10 weeks at OCS, you are commissioned as an Officer and move-on to The Basic School as a Second Lieutenant.

In Basic school you will learn what it takes to lead a platoon of Marines. During theIwo Jima educator’s workshop,  we were provided a small snippet of the training. At The Basic School, we were issued some field equipment and instructions for the day’s events. After some guidance in attaching the gear, an intelligence briefing was given regarding the afternoon tactical drill. We were then divided into our fire teams and squads and placed in a column formation.  The Lieutenants instructed us on the hand signals used in the field to communicate silently. At the completion of our training, we were off to the Landing Zone for an MRE lunch and the tactical drill.

Marine MuseumThe tactical drill: As we were traversing along a road through the woods in our column formation, a large explosion occurred, followed by screaming victims. The victims, now wounded by the explosion, were our missions’ dignitaries that we were supposed to approach and convince to return to the base and discuss why we (U.S. forces) were in their country.  After administering basic first aid, the squad leader decided on which 2 dignitaries we needed carry out because we only had 2 stretchers.  Of course, during the post brief, we discovered the Marines would never leave a man behind; they would have shouldered the third person out. Although the tactical drill was very basic in nature, it was designed to give us an idea of what a young Marine might go through when something goes wrong and the critical thinking a Marine is faced with during a mission.

The remainder of the workshop was not as intense (except for my first helicopterView from Helicopter ride on a CH 46E, one from the HMX-1 fleet), but none-the-less my interactions with the Marines and officer candidates were very interesting. It was impressive how respectful and professional the Marines were, two invaluable skills.

If you are someone who is considering joining the military as a career option and looking for a challenge, consider the Marines Corps Officer Program. From my experience in Quantico, the Marine Corps will provide you with many important life skills and a new level of pride.

MH 46e, one of the HMX-1 Fleet in Quantico, VA. Landing in a field.

Brian Carhide has more than 20 years of professional aviation experience. He spent many years as a professional pilot, including experience as a charter and airline pilot. Recently, he has been a leader in guiding young aviators in higher education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.   

Don’t Forget Your Interview Questions: Prepare to Answer Common Questions

by Adriana Hall

Job seekers often invest a great deal of time and effort in preparing high-quality resumes and cover letters.  I am sure you already understand the importance of these documents; however, it is only during an interview that you will be able to convince prospective employers of your unique value.

Your interview performance will most certainly be shaped by how well you’ve prepared yourself for that interview.  That preparation involves selecting common interview questions and practicing your answers.  As a powerful resume can get you an interview, once you are granted that opportunity, great interviewing preparation can lead to powerful interview performances and results.  Be ready to talk about your accomplishments in a way that convinces the employer that you are the right person for the job.

Being right for the job involves more than just having good skill sets; you must understand interviewing approaches and the questions you may face.  Hiring managers use a wide array of interview techniques.  Some organizations will include not only behavioral-type questions but also technical questions based on your degree and the position for which you are applying.  Many companies will include assessment tools as part of the interview process to evaluate your aptitude in various disciplines such as math, reading comprehension and general skills related to your area of study.

Below are some of the most common interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell us about a time you dealt with conflict in a team.
  • Tell me/us about a time where you failed.  How did you overcome that situation?
  • How would your best friend describe you?
  • What classes do you like the most and why?  What classes do you dislike the most and why?
  • Tell me/us about a technical project you have been involved in.
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Tell me/us about a time when you had to take initiative for something. What was the situation and what were the results?
  • What is your GPA?
  • What motivates you?
  • Define leadership. Tell me/us a time when you have been a leader.

Here are some more experienced-level interview questions:

  • How have your past professional experiences prepared you for this position?
  • From a technical or professional standpoint, what is the most difficult problem you had to solve? How did you solve it? And what was the outcome?
  • What have you done the past xx years for self-improvement in your profession?
  • What type of performance problems have you encountered in people who report to you, and how did you motivate them to improve?
  • As a professional, how would your peers describe you?
  • Is there anything that you want to say that could help us decide that you are the candidate for the position?

Last but not least, being prepared to ask questions at the interview is just as important as being prepared to answer the interviewer’s questions.  This can be your opportunity to gain further information into the requirements for the position and to re-enforce that you are the right candidate.  Asking questions can subtly communicate to the interviewers that you are truly interested in the organization.

Remember, being polished and prepared for common interview questions is an important part of the entire job search process.  This preparation can result in a solid interview performance, garnering you the job you want.

Adriana Hall has a Bachelor of Arts in Languages (Spanish-English) from Colombia-South America and a Master of Science in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She has been with ERAU for 9 years. Adriana worked for the Department of State in Colombia at the United States Embassy before moving to the U.S.

Interviewing Tips and Techniques

by Brian Carhide

A few months ago my brother-in-law had the opportunity to interview with two companies for a position as an aviation maintenance technician. Knowing that both positions were competitive and very desirable, he decided to call and ask for some advice. I proceeded to provide him with suggestions on proper dress, preparation, importance of the follow-up, and so on. Knowing him for many years and the fact he has been in the industry for over 20 years, I was confident in his ability to land the job.  However, at the end of the conversation, I mentioned one additional piece of advice – attitude.

In the month following while hanging-out during our annual spring turkey hunt, we were discussing his new job with the Home Depot corporate aviation department. Naturally as a career advisor, I had to ask him how the interview had gone. He proceeded to share some details, and one detail that continually stood-out was the information his manager shared with him after he had begun his new position: “our decision was between 3 candidates; we choose you because you were someone we would want to work with.” Albeit he is intelligent, competent, and very good at what he does, but in the end his attitude got him the job.

Of course you still need to possess a company’s desired skill set, but many times, if you have successfully made it to a personal interview, you have the skills. Now they are more interested in you as a person. In addition to attitude, I want to share a couple of techniques and approaches to help you be successful with interviewing.

Practice

If you are an athlete or a musician or have participated in any activity that requires skill, you have probably heard the old truisms – practice, practice, practice or practice makes perfect!  Interviewing for a job is no different. An interview can be a nerve-wracking experience, and sharpening your interviewing skills can help relax some of those nerves.

Mock interviewing can be an effective form of practicing. Whether you have access to a career advisor, a willing friend, or an experienced family member, you want to determine all your resources, take advantage of them and practice. This type of practice will enable you to perfect eye contact, mannerisms, and the delivery of answers. Mock interviewing will also help develop your story and help in selling the skills you have acquired to a potential employer. There is even software called Perfect Interview available on the EagleHire Network home page that allows you to video record yourself answering questions. Sometimes we are our greatest critics, and watching and listening to yourself can be a valuable learning tool.

Research

Following a recent Embry-Riddle career expo, several employers provided feedback about students which they interviewed. Comments made by the employers indicated students were lacking knowledge about their companies. This is the information age, and it’s very easy to Google a company’s name to obtain a plethora of information. That being said, there is no reason you should go into an interview without knowing general information about the company.

Besides the basic internet search, you may want to consider other methods of learning about a company. In the aviation industry, being that it’s a small network, there is a good chance an alumnus works at the company. Think about the pertinent company information an alumnus could provide and possibly about some specific tips for an upcoming interview. Knowing the culture of the company can be helpful information in an interview, which is also information an alumnus could provide. If possible, take a tour of the facility and observe the working environment and the interactions between the employees.

Gathering all the information you can and being knowledgeable about the company will show your level of interest and make you stand out from other candidates. It can also provide you with some quality questions to ask at the end of the interview, which will be discussed in a future blog post.

Follow-up

The follow-up can be equally as important because many people neglect this step in the interview process. I always suggest a handwritten thank you letter, mailing it off as soon as possible and no later than the next morning following the interview. If an email is all that you can do, it’s better than nothing. Again, the fact that many people neglect the thank you letter (or email) will make you stand out from the competition. Your follow-up should also include contacting the company a week or so after the interview to ask where they are in the process. This action will express your sincere interest in the position and your desire to work for their company.

Successful interviewing begins long before the actual interview. Each interview needs to be approached individually. However, with a well-developed plan of attack, basic knowledge, and practice, you can make that nerve-wracking experience a positive one.

Brian Carhide has more than 20 years of professional aviation experience. He spent many years as a professional pilot, including experience as a charter and airline pilot. Recently, he has been a leader in guiding young aviators in higher education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.   

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