Kool Derby

Over the years, I have interviewed for my share of positions. I’ve also been on the other side of the table and interviewed many people. In some cases, I participated on hiring panels or committees, and have learned the interests or “hot buttons” that hiring managers love to hear from candidates.

Back when I was in college, I remember a class that required learning interview skills. I went to the bookstore and purchased a book with 100 interview questions. As part of my self-development process, I decided to type a response to all the interview questions in that book, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What did you least like about your last boss?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced, and how did you handle it?

These are the common interview questions, and many of you know the drill. I must say this was a valuable exercise for me that is beneficial even today. The book provided “best answers” to these questions, which allowed me to quickly differentiate myself from other job candidates.

The field is more competitive today, and you must be prepared for situational questions. There are some responses that push you to the front of the line. If you use them at the right time, and with the right question, you will likely receive the congratulatory phone call.

#1: “I’m a firm believer in Management by Objectives (MBO).”

MBO is an approach in which the employee and manager get together early in the year to discuss the key objectives for the year. For example, a budget coordinator will ensure that all information is collected from departmental managers, submit that information into the financial system on time, and provide reports to upper management. The budget coordinator should also attend meetings, training, and pursue professional development. Throughout the year, the employee meets with the manager to keep her abreast on progress related to these objectives.

A hiring manager appreciates hearing that you are a self-starter. No one has time to micro-manage, and the fact that you understand the importance of meeting objectives gives you an edge. Make sure you understand the MBO process so that you can have an intelligent conversation during an interview. I recommend using examples that show how MBO made you more productive in your previous organization.

#2: “I understand that we must leverage the talents of our team.”

This comment is related to the “I’m a team player,” but you need to take a different approach. Working in teams is critical in today’s organizations. Work has become too specialized, and employees have unique technical skills that make them valuable to the operation.

The word “leverage” here is music to the ears of a hiring committee. It means the following to me:

  • This person understands how to bring pieces together.
  • This person has leadership qualities.
  • This person understands the big picture, and appreciates the talents of others.

In other words, you demonstrate the importance of finding the right people to do the right things at the right time. That is a tremendous skill that will set you apart from others.

Outside of these tips, you must have a pleasant and professional demeanor. You should also avoid the impression that you want to make radical changes. The first step is to get hired. Once that happens, you are ready to become a meaningful contributor.