Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR.
I have 10 years of progressive experience with HRIM. But I'm worried about my interviewing skills being rusty. It took almost a year to find my last job five years ago, and I feel certain it was because of the way I was presenting myself.
Being good at what you do but not so hot at selling yourself isn't an unusual problem. It is, however, something you can address.
Think about how you are feeling just before an interview starts. You're worrying about what you'll be asked, but do you have any idea what hiring managers are thinking?
They are usually hoping to find someone who can do the job and get along well with the team. "Please let me find someone like that and get back to my work," they plead internally.
Here's how to convince them you're the solution to their hiring problem.
The Right Attitude
You should always go to an interview with the single intent of getting a job offer.
All too often, a candidate will waste an interview by going in with the wrong goal: asking questions to help decide if this is the right job, right company, right work environment, etc. These are all considerations, but they are irrelevant until there's an offer on the table.
When you look at all the professional skills needed to survive and succeed over a long career, the ability to turn interviews into job offers is probably the area where you are the weakest—and you're not alone.
To improve this critical skill, you need to approach job interviews with the right attitude. Treat every interview as an opportunity to build this most crucial survival skill.
Interviews Are About Problem-Solving
We all get hired for our ability to identify, anticipate, prevent and solve the problems that arise within our area of responsibility. Problems reduce profits. Cut right to the heart of any job, and you'll see that you are hired to be a problem-solver.
The candidate who is best able to show how he or she can solve problems for the employer is the one who is likely to get the job offer. How do you do this? Look at the job description and consider every responsibility of that job in terms of the problems it presents and how you would identify, anticipate, prevent and solve those problems. This accurately isolates the areas of concern that the hiring manager will ask you about during the interview.
The Questions You Ask Are Important, Too
Hiring decisions are based on how you answer questions and on the questions you ask. This is because the questions you ask show your grasp of the job and of the ways it—and the person in it—can help the company. When you ask perceptive questions that go to the very heart of the job, you demonstrate a degree of understanding most other candidates will never approach.
Position yourself as someone who "gets" the importance of the job and as someone who recognizes and can handle the problems that it serves up every day, and you'll become the candidate every manager wants to hire.
Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.
Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore.