3 Steps to a Successful Job Interview, with Felicia Rivers

Listen On:

Transcript

Find Your Dream Job, Episode 259:

3 Steps to a Successful Job Interview, with Felicia Rivers

Airdate: September 02, 2020

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.

When you interview and hire hundreds of people, you start to see patterns. The best candidates do the same things again and again.

Felicia Rivers is here to talk about three steps she sees people take in a successful job interview.

Felicia is the director of talent at the Tillamook Creamery Association. It’s a farmer-owned, dairy cooperative headquartered in Tillamook County, Oregon. She has almost 20 years of experience in talent acquisition, in several different industries.

Felicia joins us today from Portland, Oregon.

Felicia, here’s where I want to start, as a human resources director, you’ve hired countless people, and you say there are three steps the best applicants take in job interviews. Let’s go through them one by one.

The first one is, you say, you’ve got to know what drives you. What do you mean by this, Felicia?

Felicia Rivers:

Yes, when you’re looking for work, you should understand for yourself, and this is really just for you, the person looking for the role, that you should understand, are you looking for a new title? Is it career advancement? Is it more challenging work? Do you just want to move to a new city?

Whatever your driver is, that’s okay. But you should understand what that is, and go out and research organizations and industries that will provide you with that.

Mac Prichard:

Why is that important? Isn’t a job search kind of like a shopping trip? Aren’t you checking out the employers too, Felicia?

Felicia Rivers:

Oh absolutely. I always tell folks, the job interview is just as important for you as it is for the employer. We spend more waking hours doing our work than we do spending time with our families. So, it’s so important for you to understand what your driver is so that you can find that position and that company that will get you those things that you’re looking for that are important to the enrichment in your career.

Mac Prichard:

But what comes first, is it knowing what your driver is, or is it curiosity about whether a company or a job might be interesting? Because I’m sure there are people out there who know, “Okay, this is what I care about and this company provides it.” There might be other people who say, “Well, I’m not sure about this place. Why don’t I just send in an application and see what happens?”

Felicia Rivers:

I think it depends on where you are in your career and what you’re trying to do. There are folks that are looking to change their career completely. So, you’ve done one thing for several years and you want to explore something new. So, that would be the time where it would be really good to check out an organization and see, “Hey, is this something I’d want to do?” Doing some research, and finding folks in that organization to be able to do that would be great.

There are other folks in their career who know exactly what they want to do. So, then they can go to those organizations and find places that can match up with their values and what’s important to them.

Mac Prichard:

For you as a human resource director, when you’re talking to a candidate, either on the phone or via Zoom call, or in the old days, face to face, why was it important for you to see that a candidate knew what drove her? Why did that matter to you?

Felicia Rivers:

I think it’s really important, when someone comes to your organization, that they understand what they want and how that fits and aligns with what the organization can provide. Also, organizations want to know that you’re interested in coming to work for them, not just to get a job.

Mac Prichard:

Do you risk turning off an employer if you talk too much about your own motivation and not about an employer’s needs?

Felicia Rivers:

I think there is a line. I think it’s really important if you can marry the two. So, talk about what you’re looking for, and how what you’re looking for can help you be successful and help that organization drive towards their goals.

Mac Prichard:

Felicia, what about a candidate who doesn’t mention the motivation? What drives them and why they want to be at that company? Is that a turn-off for a hiring manager like yourself?

Felicia Rivers:

It’s not a turn-off, but I typically will ask. I always ask, “What interests you in this organization and in this role?” So, I ask the question.

Mac Prichard:

Do you find sometimes that people don’t know the answer?

Felicia Rivers:

Sometimes. I take that, depending on the level. Sometimes, when you’re looking at someone who’s coming in as an entry-level person, they may not know yet, so you have to have grace.

Mac Prichard:

If you’re mid-career, you probably need to reflect on that and have an explanation ready before you walk in the interview room, don’t you?

Felicia Rivers:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Now, you have three steps here that you see successful candidates take in a job interview. The second one is, they know which companies offer what drives you. In other words, if you’re a candidate, you know what the companies that offer what drives your motivation.

Tell us more about this, Felicia, what does that mean?

Felicia Rivers:

So, now you know that you’re looking for the next level in your career; we’ll just use that as an example, and you also know that you’d like to work for a particular industry, and you’ve now narrowed that down to even a few companies. And what you have decided is that those companies will provide you with either the growth or stability that you’re looking for, and they’re also going to provide you with that challenging work.

Now that you know those things, you want to do a little more research with that organization, you want to understand what’s going on with that company. Recent news, products that they sell, things like that, so that when you come into your interview, you’re able to speak to how what you bring to the table matches with what that organization is headed toward.

Mac Prichard:

How does that help a candidate, in a job interview, when they do that?

Felicia Rivers:

It’s very impressive to an organization, number one, to know that a candidate has done their research about the organization prior to stepping into that interview. It shows a level of interest in itself, that you’ve taken the time to go out and look at the products or look at the website, you know what the latest news is. “Hey, I noticed you guys are opening up a new store in such and such place.”

People are impressed by that but it also shows that you do have an interest in that organization.

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, what percentage of candidates walk in the door knowing those things?

Felicia Rivers:

You know, it depends on the level. So, as you get higher in the level of roles, so manager, director, and above, that is probably 70 to 80% of the folks that have that. You can see, there’s still a gap where folks do show up and they don’t have that information.

Mac Prichard:

The people who know those answers and have done that research, how much time do you think they’ve spent preparing, getting clear about that before the interview itself, Felicia?

Felicia Rivers:

I have seen, based on how folks answer questions and the question that they ask us, that people have spent anywhere from 2 to 4 hours researching. Because we have people who will go so in-depth as to look at folks that they will be interviewing with, look their profiles up on LinkedIn, they have understood their background, and so they have questions about that. I have people who understand the products, and they have gone out to the marketplace and looked at the products. So, there’s a wide array of how well folks prepare, and the more you prepare, the better you do in the interview.

Mac Prichard:

Can you ever over-prepare? Have you ever seen people just bludgeon you with facts and insights in an interview, so much so that it was actually a turn-off?

Felicia Rivers:

Absolutely. You want to know a lot, but you also don’t want to come into the interview giving the impression that you know more about the company than the folks that you’re interviewing with.

Mac Prichard:

How about curiosity, Felicia? While you’ve got to do your homework, is it a good thing to ask questions, particularly for subjects you might not have been able to research before the interview?

Felicia Rivers:

Absolutely, I think it’s wonderful for a candidate to come in and show a genuine interest. Much like the question you asked me a moment ago, you have to temper how many questions you ask and what you’re asking, but absolutely. It is a great thing when a candidate is asking questions and trying to understand a bit more about that organization.

Mac Prichard:

Again, I come back to the candidates, and I think I understand why people say this. People who are doing a job search, they’re curious to know about a company and they may walk into the interview knowing very little. Is that really a problem? Do you never see successful candidates or people get offers…are there ever situations where they don’t do the research and they still manage to get the job?

Felicia Rivers:

That happens. It’s rare, and really, I’ll be honest with you, it depends on the personality of the organization that you’re interviewing with, and you might ask me what do I mean by that. There are companies that, this is very important to them. I’ve worked in several industries and I’ve worked places where the leadership team is pretty disappointed when someone comes in and they don’t have that knowledge. Then I have worked for places that are a little more forgiving, and they will accept if you have the competencies and you’ve shown the requisite amount of motivation to come to their organization, there is some grace given.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I want to take a quick break,and when we come back, I want to talk about the third step you see successful candidates take in a job interview.

Please, stay with us. We’ll be back right after this announcement.

A resume alone won’t get you a job.

But if you have a bad resume, you won’t get an interview, much less an offer.

Find out today how your resume compares to others. Get a free review from Top Resume.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

One of Top Resume’s expert writers will tell you what works and doesn’t work in your resume.

And you can use what you learn to make your resume better before you apply for your next job.

Did I mention the Top Resume review is completely free?

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

You can also hire Top Resume to do your resume for you. Its writers have helped hundreds of thousands of people get interviews and land jobs faster.

Find out today what you can do to make your resume shine.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Felicia Rivers.

She’s the director of talent at the Tillamook Creamery Association. It’s a farmer-owned dairy cooperative headquartered in Tillamook County, Oregon.

Now, Felicia, before the break we were talking about these three steps that you see, as a hiring manager, successful candidates take in a job interview.

Let’s talk about the third one; you say that people who get offers know why this company and why this job. What do you mean here, Felicia?

Felicia Rivers:

When I talk about that, I ask folks, one of the questions I ask people is, “Tell me, what would make this a great next move for you? This organization.” And I want to hear from them what they’re looking for culturally from an organization, challenge-wise, all of those things. When you can answer those questions, it really helps the organization to see that you’re interested in not only taking on a new role, but you’re interested in how you can be a contributing member to that organization meeting its goals.

Mac Prichard:

What steps do you recommend candidates take before the interview to get clarity about that question? What kind of research can be helpful to an applicant?

Felicia Rivers:

I think it’s very important for you to read the job description that has been presented to you, and really understand how every time you answer a question, you’re able to tie your experience back to what the organization is looking for and how you would be successful, based on the answers that you give them.

I often tell folks, when you are looking for a role, you are in marketing and your product is you, so how will you differentiate yourself from your competition during the interview process?

Mac Prichard:

Let’s talk about the research in more detail. Is this about reading the company website? Is it about interviewing people in informational conversations before the interview? What do you see successful candidates do?

Felicia Rivers:

I see them do several of those things. Some folks will reach out to people if they know someone in the organization. They will have a conversation with them and ask, “What does the organization typically look for when they’re hiring?” They will ask questions about, “What is the culture like there?” People are very interested in what an organization’s culture is. They will ask about stewardship or sustainability, “How is your company with that?”

That’s a very important driver for folks today, so people will ask those questions and they want to know those things, so those are their own motivators. But then also asking what the organization looks for, what is a day in the life like at that organization? People want to have that kind of thing answered as well, so that they’re prepared when they come into their interview.

Mac Prichard:

How specific do you get candidates get in doing this research about a particular problem or challenges a company might be facing? Those are good questions, about culture, typical day, people who are successful inside of an organization, but what about the thorny problems of the job? Because in the end, you and your colleagues are hiring people to solve problems that are keeping you up at night, aren’t you?

Felicia Rivers:

Absolutely. We get a lot of great questions about that. One of the best questions people ask you is, well, there’s two of them: number one they might ask you, “What does success look like for me if I’m hired for this role?” And the other question is just what you said, “What is it that keeps you up at night that the person filling this role can assist with?”

Mac Prichard:

I’ve got to ask, Felicia, how often do you have candidates ask you those questions in an interview or ask when you’re on an interview panel? Does that come up very often?

Felicia Rivers:

I’d say it’s becoming more, but probably 30 to 40% of the time, so not that often but it is pretty impressive when someone asks that question.

Mac Prichard:

Why is it impressive to you as a hiring manager, when somebody asks what’s keeping you up at night or what does success look like in a year’s time?

Felicia Rivers:

That’s an indicator that the person is looking to come to the organization and help move us forward. It also shows that the person is aware that there may be things that keep people up at night and that it isn’t all rosy. And one of the things that I always try to tell hiring managers is, we want to give folks who are interviewing for a role a realistic preview of the role. When that question is asked, or even when it isn’t, I encourage folks to give that information.

Mac Prichard:

Do you find that hiring managers are pretty frank about the challenges that they’re facing in their department or program?

Felicia Rivers:

Yes, they are. They’re pretty frank and so, sometimes you also have to say, “Hey, don’t be too down about it.” We want to temper that as well.

Mac Prichard:

How does asking that question affect the quality of the conversation? Do you find that it changes the interview and there’s a focus on problem-solving?

Felicia Rivers:

I think it does. If you notice when, back in the old days when we used to sit face to face and talk to each other, and you ask someone a question and they lean forward, and you can really tell that they’re engaged and they’re excited about what’s happening. A lot of times that is when that’s activated, is when someone starts to talk about problem-solving. When you can see both the hiring manager and the candidate get much more engaged and they’re leaning forward and they’re talking and they’re really thinking about, how do each of them do that, go through the problem-solving process? So, it’s pretty exciting.

Mac Prichard:

We’ve talked about these three steps that you see successful applicants take; how do you think people know how to do this, Felicia? Is this something they arrived at through trial and error? Are they being coached? Is it instinct? What do you think is going on there?

Felicia Rivers:

I think there’s a lot of coaching that’s happening, and the evolution of looking for work continues to change. I mean, in the world we’re in today, it has changed again, but I think that every time there is a little shift in the market, people do a little bit more research. There are folks out there who are willing to give feedback and coaching and counseling to folks to help them understand what will help them be successful, and that’s one of the things I like to try to do, so I think there’s a lot of that that is happening for folks.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Well, again, those three steps are, know what drives you, know which companies offer what drives you, and know why this company and why this job.

I’ve got to ask, Felicia, what about unsuccessful interviews? And I ask this in a constructive spirit, you see a lot of candidates come in and they’re well-intentioned but they do things that ultimately, not only jeopardize their candidacy but also result in them not getting an offer.

Are there things that rise to the surface, or could you say the top three common mistakes you see unsuccessful applicants make?

Felicia Rivers:

Yes, unfortunately, an inability to articulate how their skills translate to the role we’re looking for. Some folks have a really hard time with that and that does not help them. Unfortunately, when you’re meeting with someone for an interview, you really only have that time with them to learn who they are and what they can bring to the table.

A couple of the other things that folks do is, if you’re applying for a higher-level role and you’re just completely unprepared for the interview. So, not only have you not done your research, you don’t really have good questions that you want to ask, you’re not really…you’re just really showing that you’re not prepared.

The last thing is not showing a true interest in the organization. Those are some of the top three that are problematic.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so know how to talk about your skills, do your homework, and be enthusiastic, and maybe not even take the interview if it’s not a job that you’re particularly interested in.

Felicia Rivers:

I think that’s a really great thing, is to not even take the interview if you’re not interested. It’s a waste of your time and the organization’s.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific, it’s been a great conversation, Felicia. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Felicia Rivers:

Well, I will just continue to provide advice, when and where I can, to folks looking to change their role or their career. It’s one of the things that I enjoy doing and will continue to do so.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, Felicia, I know people can learn more about you and your work at the Tillamook Creamery Association by visiting your LinkedIn page. I certainly encourage people to mention that they heard you on the show and include an invitation as well if they do connect with you there.

Now, Felicia, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about the three steps that you’ve outlined today to a successful job interview?

Felicia Rivers:

The biggest thing I think people should remember is, when you’re looking for a role, this is just as important to you as it is for the organization that’s interviewing you. So really, understand what your driver and motivator are, and it’s okay, whatever your driver is, it’s your driver and there’s no right or wrong driver and it’s okay.

Mac Prichard:

Find out today what the experts think about your resume.

Get it reviewed for free by Top Resume.

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

And make sure you never miss an episode of Find Your Dream Job.

Sign up for our free podcast newsletter.

You’ll get information about our guests, links to resources, and a transcript of every show.

Go to macslist.org/shownotes.

Next week, our guest will be Corbin C.  He’s a career advisor at Boly:Welch. It’s a recruiting, staffing, and human resources consulting firm.

One of the biggest challenges you face as a job seeker is getting clear about what you want in your next position.

Corbin and I will talk about how you can answer this question and why it can make your job search easier and faster.

I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

If you are currently searching for your next position, what is it that you’re looking for? Are you interested in moving up to the next level or do you want to change fields? Perhaps you want to explore a new location.

Before you apply for a new job, Find Your Dream Job guest Felicia Rivers says you have to figure out what’s driving you to make the change. After you identify your driver, choose companies that will meet that desire. But, Felicia says, don’t skip doing your homework. Going into an interview unprepared is a sign to a hiring manager that you aren’t really interested in the position or the organization. 

About Our Guest:

Felicia Rivers is the director of talent at the Tillamook Creamery Association, a farmer-owned dairy cooperative headquartered in Tillamook County, Oregon. Felicia has almost 20 years of experience in talent acquisition.

Resources in This Episode: