Updated: Feb 15
By Michael Kiener PhD, CRC Director of Rehabilitation Counseling Maryville University, Missouri Rehabilitation Association Eastern Chapter, Co-host of the Mentor Moments podcast.
Laura Weeks Graduate Student Rehabilitation Counseling Maryville University
It is estimated that the average person will have between 12-15 jobs in their adult working life. Assuming a person has their first professional job at age 22 and retires at age 65, that would mean a person is changing jobs every 2.8 to 3.5 years. For individuals who temporarily leave the work force due to illness, disability, parenting, or other life events, the challenge of reentering a field or beginning in a new one can be especially daunting. To ensure the greatest probability of progressing in one’s career, stay professionally up to date by becoming a lifelong learner (check out a recent blog post on Increasing your Learning as a Professional) and by seeking out new occupational trends.
If you do find yourself actively seeking employment, mastering the job interview is essential to securing your next position. The following post will provide two strategies to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Interviewing Best Practices
Tip #1 - 1. Comfort using Technology
Technology is becoming an ever-bigger presence in every aspect of our lives and employment is a prime example. Whether you are using a job seeking website to build your resume and find employment openings, interviewing via a video conferencing platform, or onboarding using a learning management system, it is essential you are comfortable using and interacting with technology. Most companies use electronic applicant tracking systems to help organize and manage their hiring. It is therefore essential you follow formatting instructions when uploading documents like your cover letter and resume to ensure your materials get through the screening process and make it to the hiring committee. When possible, update your computer, smart phone, and or tablet to ensure you can access the latest technology. Become familiar with video conferencing platforms like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and WebEx as more and more employers are conducting interviews using these platforms. Occasionally, you may be asked to do a one-way video interview, where you video record yourself answering a series of questions. Try working with trusted friends or colleagues on staying current with technology and practice using these applications on all your devices. By exceling in these platforms, you are reducing the chances of having technology challenges while interviewing. If you are uncomfortable with video interviewing there are a number of apps that allow you to practice and get more comfortable talking to a camera. Finally, remember the small stuff! Check the battery on your device or have a power cord handy, conduct a test run of your Wi-Fi connection and microphone settings the day of the interview, and consider prearranging a backup method with your interviewer (such as an old-fashioned phone call) in case something goes wrong.
Tip #2 - Predict and Prepare for your Interview
When you are invited for an in person or virtual interview, it is essential to begin preparation as soon as possible. Ask the interview committee about the process. For example, will the interview be a series of individual interviews, a group of candidates together, or a combination? Will you be asked to do a presentation or demonstrate a skill? The more you know, the better you can prepare. Work to predict the interview questions and practice your responses. At a minimum, be ready to answer questions regarding your strengths, areas of improvement or growth, diversity and inclusion issues, how you have successfully handled challenges, and scenario-based questions that when answered describe how you would perform in typical work situations. The internet can be very helpful for this task with a wealth of resources on both possible questions and how to structure effective answers. Practicing your responses with a colleague or writing them down can help you refine your answers. Find the balance between not giving enough information and giving too much information; you may have multiple rounds of interviewing. Finally, do your research. Employers want to see that you are invested enough to learn specifics about their organization and why you would be a good fit. Know about individuals on the interview committee if possible and develop questions to ask each member. Keep in mind, you are also interviewing the agency. It is a mutual process of asking and gaining information so that both parties can make the best possible decision.