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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

You Can Control That Interview

Published June 13, 2010 8:07 PM by Glen McDaniel

A friend I had not heard from in almost 4 years called me yesterday. She is out of a job and complained that after 12 years in one job she has been laid off.  She is nervous about being unemployed but also disillusioned about the job market and scared about the interview process itself... She mentioned that several of her friends have changed jobs recently and complained about the rigors of the interview process.

She asked for some advice. I have sat in on some of the worst interviews known to man.  Hiring managers often roll out the tired old questions "Tell me about yourself, "or "Why should I hire you?" I have seen even senior management refuse to hire someone because they stumbled over a dumb interview question.

The two major pieces of advice I can give job applicants are first realize that the prospective employer is interested in how you can help THEM solve a problem or achieve some goal. Secondly, they want to know some concrete achievement you have made in the past. Try not to keep repeating the same answer, but if you can craft answers against the backdrop of these 2 organizational needs, you are half-way there.

 

Let the interviewer lead the way for the first part of the interview until some rapport develops, then it is perfectly OK to give longer more detailed answers and even to bring up information the interviewer hasn't asked. Suppose they do the traditional boring superficial interview and you want to mention that you made some real measurable achievements at your last job. Even if the interviewer has not asked about your achievements it is perfectly OK to say "One thing I am particularly proud of is that at ABC I led a team that was able to add real value. We overhauled the staffing model, reducing overtime from 14% to about 4%." etc etc. That is also likely to elicit more exchange of your potential value.

Remember that you also have many transferable skills. If you have always worked in the clinical laboratory but you are interviewing for equipment sales, point out that you are tech-savvy, detailed oriented, responsive to customers' needs and always went the extra mile to satisfy a fussy physician. Again: how can you use your skills to bring value to the interviewer's company?

Be prepared with a list of questions to ask when the interviewer invariably asks "Do you have any questions for me?" Sitting there blankly does not create a good impression and asking questions with obvious answers also indicates you are not adequately prepared.

It is good to ask about the job, reporting structure, current priorities, reason for current vacancy, opportunities for advancement, but not about salary or days off at this point. If asked directly about salary expected, deflect by saying something like "If offered the job I am more than willing to look at the range and share with you what I was paid in my last job."  If offered the job that is the time to negotiate salary because you are their number one choice, which gives you leverage. You do not want to remove yourself from the running by discussing salary too early or locking yourself into a low salary just to seem amenable.

The first part of the interview is similar to a buyer's market: the interviewer wants to know why they should hire you. The second part of the interview or a call-back interview should entail you sizing up the company as well. Remember jobs are scarce, but it must be a good, mutual fit or it won't last long. And who wants to have to face yet another interview??

6 comments

Maribel:

That's a really tough one. Generally interviewers want to know as much about interviewees as possible. Dominating the interview by engagng in a monologue is no way to do this. That is one reason why a team interview can be a useful tool. The prospective employer as well as the person being interviewed get different perspectives and a richer context from which to make a  decision.

If you were still interested in the job after that onsluaght, I would suggest you look for an opening and say something like "I do have a few questions about the job"; then jump in, fire off your questions. Start with "My first question is ..." indicating there will be followup ones.  Hopefully bring the attention back to you.

Another tactic: at the  end of the interview ask for contact information. Send a detailed email thanking him/her for the interview and summarizing your understanding of what was discussed. You may also add the "I did have a few more questions" line as well.

If those tactics dont yield more of a discussion, then you a job working for that person would probably not be tolerable anyway. Remember an interview is for the benefit of both interviewer and interviewee.

Glen McDaniel July 4, 2010 12:15 PM

What do you do when the interviewer just talks without pausing. One time I was in one interview where the lab manager just went on and on talking nonstop. After one hour she just thanked me and stood up ending the interview. She didnt realize I hadnt said but a few words. I didnt get offered the job  and I really didnt care at that point. I just wanted to get away from her.

Maribel R. CLS (NCA) June 26, 2010 3:05 PM
Washington DC

I have been a supervisor for years and have hired many techs. I dont know how many techs hurt themselves in the interview.  I know when someone is coming dircetly from another job they wear work clothes, but I have seen techs come in with crusty shoes and dirty stained scrubs.  What are they thinking?

Then many dont have any questions at all for me or they ask the salary right up front. Sometimes they bash their current employer. That's also a no no.

I can count on one hand the number of techs who even bother to send an email saying thanks for the interview. I dont think techs realise how far those simple steps go in making a hiring decision.

Janice A. MLT June 20, 2010 2:36 PM
Morrow GA

Amanda:

I understand your fear of interviews. Believe me, you are not alone. I think being  prepared goes a long way

Research the lab/hospital, rehearse answers to common questions including the silly "Tell me about yourself." I'd say something simple about how long I have been a tech, the areas I have worked and why I am currently looking for a job. Four sentences or so should be enough for that one.

Be brief in your answers to avoid rambling.  Smile and breath. One obvious thing overlooked by many interviewees is that it's perfectly OK to say you are nervous. That humanizes you and builds empathy. Everyone (including the interviewer) can relate to being nervous. and will cut you some slack. Write down a few questions to ask. It's also OK to refer to your notes. In fact it shows that you cared enough to prepare.

Always, always write an email thanking the interviwer for the interview and express continued interest in the position. I have selected one candidate over another similarly -qualified interviewee because of a friendly, sincere-sounding followup email. I have also given a second interview to someone who confided they had an off day during the interview because of traffic, being ill or preoccupied about a sick child.

It really is possible to control the interview instead of being controlled by it. I hope these tips help.

Glen McDaniel June 15, 2010 8:39 PM

I get nervous at interviews to the point where I have stayed in a bad job because I just dont want to have to interview for something new. If you really mess up what can you do? I have left an interview in tears because I froze so much. Of course I didnt get the job. What advice do you have?

Amanda C. MLT June 14, 2010 8:31 PM
New Orleans LA

I was always out off by that tell me about yourself thing. I never know if they wanted to know about my family and hobbies or for me to say I am a great tech and a wonderful team player. That  question always made me nervous and I never know if I answered correctly or not.I would  hate to be looking for a job now.

Anna B MT June 13, 2010 8:28 PM
Morrow GA

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