As a recruiter, I am noticing fewer and fewer candidates preparing for interviews for lower-paying jobs. I’m not sure if it's because they feel the jobs are so entry-level that they don’t have to or for some other odd reason. Regardless of whether the interview is for the Chief Executive Officer or a McDonald’s cashier, it is still important to prepare for any interview.
A teacher applied for a job in the library. He didn’t have any library experience what-so-ever, but for some reason he made it through the first level because of the very basic primary job requirements. During the interview, he was unable to answer a single technical question about the position. He didn’t know anything details from how to handle a customer returning a book late to automated library systems. While some of the questions would have been impossible for him to answer based on his lack of experience, he couldn't even apply simple logic to answer the question. One question was regarding automated software knowledge. Common sense would dictate that he talk about any automated software knowledge. Unfortunately, he failed to even refer to the software he used every day in the school. While it may not have been library software, would have shown a level of some technical knowledge. The interview was basically a waste of everyone’s time, including his.
How could he have prepared? He admitted to spending a lot of time in the library. He could have taken a moment to chat with some of the librarians and service technicians about what they do. If he didn’t feel comfortable asking, he could have sat at a table near the circulation desk and observed the many interactions that took place. What if it had been a job at a McDonalds? Purchase a drink and sit at one of the tables and covertly watch the staff. You can learn a lot just by observation. Don’t stay too long, however, you don’t want to look like a stalker.
Are you unable to answer questions? “Wow that’s a good one,” really isn’t a good response. Sometimes a question does warrant an “excellent question”, but using this for every question actually means you have no idea how to response. Say it in your head if you must, but try to refrain from repeating this over and over.
Most interviews will ask a set of the same questions, just in different ways depending on the interviewer and the position. If you don’t know by now, they are going to ask about a difficult employee or customer. You should also know they are going to ask about how you work with co-workers and your boss. You should have a standard story for this. If you keep reapplying to the same company, make sure you have several different stories to share in case you end up with the same interviewer.
There have been so many times, I’ve wondered if the candidate actually realized they were coming to an interview or wondered why they applied. Don’t be that person to make the hiring manager wonder. You want to be the one they select.