with Rick Silva, Leanne Fuller, and Kelly Shumaker
RICK: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Rick Silva, retired Master Sergeant, United States Army of over 20 years currently in the profession. And I’m here today with Kelly and Leanne, two H.R. professionals, and we’re going to talk about interview techniques. They’ve got a lot of good information on this subject and they’re gonna help you Crack the Code in interview techniques. But first, I want to give an opportunity to introduce themselves.
KELLY: [00:00:24] I’m Kelly Shumaker. I am currently the Vice President of Human Resources at Pharmaceutical Associates Inc and I have about 30 years of HR experience.
LEANNE: [00:00:34] And I’m Leanne Fuller and I’m currently the H.R. Business Partner at ABB Motors and Mechanical Group in Greenville. And I have a little more than 30 years’ experience in H.R.
RICK: [00:00:48] Outstanding. Thank you both for being here. We’re going to, we’re going to cover the inside of the interview and what that means. So, let’s jump right into it. What is the point of the interview? I mean, what are you really trying to get at?
LEANNE: [00:01:02] It’s a really good question, I’ve asked myself that a lot, do you want to go first? OK, so, you know, the hiring manager really drills into the job detail. But really what I consider aren’t the technical aspects of the job for which I may not be qualified to ask certain questions. So the hiring managers really try to get at the subject matter of the decision, whereas the H.R. person who’s conducting interviews is really trying to determine if you’re the proper fit for the culture, why you’re there to begin with. Why are you leaving your current job or why have you been unemployed? And also try to determine if there are any red flags that the hiring manager may not pick up because they are just a little bit better at picking up on those things. So, Kelly, you might have a different answer to that.
KELLY: [00:01:52] No, I think that sums it up. So the hiring manager generally is after those technical questions and you may get through a number of interviewers and it will be the hiring manager. It may be the team that you’d be working with if you came on board. It may be someone from HR again looking for the fit. So, the interview purpose is multifaceted and you can have all the great technical skills in the world, but you need to fit into the company. Likewise, you can fit into the company and not have the technical skill. So, we have to have both and a balance. So that’s why you need a full interview team to make that decision.
RICK: [00:02:36] So I’m hearing, I’m hearing hiring manager, H.R., and your team. Can you just, in a real quick snippet, expand a little bit of the difference between what an H.R. professional would be versus a hiring manager?
KELLY: [00:02:52] Sure. For the hiring manager, that is generally the person to whom the candidate would report if they came on board. And so they’re much more interested, of course, in the technical aspects. The H.R. representative is generally a recruiter who is just number one, trying to fill a position, but number two, making sure that the person fits into the culture. You don’t want to work somewhere, and the company doesn’t want somebody, where the culture, the values, the morals are a mismatch… it’s very important that from a company perspective and from an employee perspective or prospective employee, that you want to make sure that the values and the morals are aligned because you’re not going to be successful if you’re not. So you want to make sure that, you know, the what and the how of getting the job done. And that is the both the technical side and the fit side.
RICK: [00:03:54] So we talked about the point of the interview. So now the job seeker in front of the hiring manager or the H.R. professional, how do I effectively communicate my military experience and how it relates to the job I’m applying for, especially if the interviewer doesn’t know much about the military?
LEANNE: [00:04:14] So I think a lot of interviewers don’t know that much about the military, quite honestly, unless they have been in the military. What I think would be really important is to try to identify what the transferable skills are that you have that would resonate with that employer. So, for example, if you held rank in the military, talk about the leadership skills that you had, the organizational skills, the people skills, that sort of thing, if you were more of a hands-on mechanical type of person, try to think about what some of the some of the very basic things are that would apply not just in the military but in the civilian world, but I do think it’s really important that you, that you focus on transferable skills so that you are automatically translating that lingo for them, because there are just a lot of people, myself included years ago, who become very confused by the military lingo or language. And if you don’t understand it, you’re likely to think that that person is not qualified, unfortunately.
KELLY: [00:05:21] Now, I would agree that it is not just for Veterans entering the workforce as even somebody from another industry or another company, that if you use acronyms or lingo that’s specific to that company or the military, a lot of times the hiring manager does not know what that means. So I think Leanne has a great example. Earlier when she came for an interview and actually put it down a napkin, what they were looking for. So maybe you want to share that story.
LEANNE: [00:05:54] Yeah, so when I moved to Greenville about twenty five years ago, I was going for an interview with the job or excuse me, with an employer. And so I came to Greenville the night before and I’m at a restaurant downtown here and I had a cocktail napkin out and I looked at the job posting and I just wrote down all the things that they were looking for. And then in the next column on my cocktail napkin, I wrote down what are the skills that one would use to do those things? And then in the third column that I made, I put when in my job experience or otherwise have done that. And I came to the last thing that they were asking for on their job posting, which was sales. And I didn’t have any sales experience, but I thought and I thought… I racked my brain and I decided that I did have sales experience, even though it wasn’t selling widgets. I sold ideas to our plant manager or to my boss. And so when I went in for the interview the next day, the interviewer covered everything that I had anticipated. What I had done was I had kind of put my hat on the night before as if I am the hiring manager, what am I looking for, and identify those things. And then sure enough in the interview, it’s almost as if it was scripted. They asked me about everything that I had anticipated, and when they got to the sales question, I had an answer. And had I not gone through that exercise of that before, anticipating, thinking about my experience, thinking about the specific skill that I used in performing that task, I probably wouldn’t have had a good answer for “What’s your sales experience?” So to me, that was, you know, I didn’t really know that that’s a good process. But as it turns out, that’s kind of the reverse of behavioral interview where you look for STARS, or we’ll talk about that in just a minute, I think.
RICK: [00:07:36] And that’s an awesome story. And I appreciate you telling that, because what it tells me is that no matter what you did in the military, whether you’re in combat arms or an admin or logistician or transportation, that we probably all have something that relates to the job that we’re interviewing. Is that safe to say?
LEANNE: [00:07:54] That’s right.
KELLY: [00:07:56] Yes, exactly.
RICK: [00:07:58] Well, thank you for that. The final question, when we’re talking about interview preparation is ,”What tips do you have for dressing for an interview?” Million dollar question.
KELLY: [00:08:08] I always recommend number one, as was mentioned in a previous module, you want to understand the culture of the company. So if you can reach out to people via LinkedIn or some of your network, you always want to dress at least as good as they do, if not better. And you can never underestimate a pair of khakis and a polo shirt at a minimum because I think that industry is a little bit more casual now. But of course, if you’re in the financial industry or the legal arena, it is going to be a coat and tie or a suit or whatever. So you really need to be familiar with the industry and what’s worn in that industry and specifically was worn in that company. But the most important thing that you can wear is your facial expression and your smile. And when you’re greeting people that you’re greeting them with a smile. Now, of course, we’re not all the time in person now. And if you are in person, you’re not going up and shaking hands like you used to. You know, you’re now, you’re doing if you’re lucky, the elbow bump. But even if you’re on camera, you want to make sure that you’re dressed well, at least from the waist up and don’t stand up if you’re not. Also, I always recommend that on camera. I find that if you stand up there or on the phone that your voice changes, you’re a lot more, I don’t know, positive. You’re happier if you smile, even if they can’t see you, smile is coming through in your voice. So there’s a lot of things that I guess can be considered dress that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the clothing that you wear. But it’s also the body language that you present when you’re on an interview, whether, again, whether that’s in person, whether it is virtual or is via telephone. Because I guarantee you, if you’re on the phone and you’re standing up and you have a smile on your face, a smile will come through that phone line.
LEANNE: [00:10:36] Yeah. So it is a little bit of a tricky thing because I’ve known of people who’ve gone for an interview at a manufacturing facility or at a coal mine or something. And if you wear a coat and tie, they’re going to say she or he is afraid of getting their hands dirty. And then I’ve heard in my office where we are, it’s a lot of professionals. It’s all white collar. You know, if somebody comes in, if I’m not dressed up a notch, then that gets noticed, too. So you kind of got to know and be careful, you know, in your networking that you trust the person you’re asking as far as culturally, what should I be wearing? So, you know, like in an office, you can’t go wrong if you wear a jacket, wear the polo shirt or a jacket and that button-down without a tie, because that’s kind of neutral right there. And if you go into a plant environment, you know, just wear a nice button-down shirt or whatever, no jacket, but, you know, you just don’t want to dress in the wrong environment or under dress in the wrong environment.
KELLY: [00:11:38] And I would also add to that if you know that you’re going to a manufacturing site, especially if you’re female, you want to wear enclosed shoes because you need your toes and your heels enclosed. The other thing is, and it’s almost free, you need to make sure that they’re ironed so they’re not wrinkled. You want to make sure that your shoes, your shoes aren’t dusty or muddy. I had a hiring manager one time. He refused to hire a fantastic candidate because he needed to have attention to detail. And his shoes were muddy and she said no, and we did not hire that candidate. So all of those details do matter. And obviously, coming from a military background, I’m sure that you will have all that taken care of. But it’s just worth mentioning one more time.
RICK: [00:12:26] Yeah, a good rule of thumb that I was told at one time, and you can tell me if I’m off base, but if you know the company’s dress code, you’re always safe to dress one level above the company’s dress code. You know that. You know that company’s dress code, if it’s business casual, then go ahead and dress professional, if it’s casual and go ahead and dress business casual. So that’s a good rule of thumb.
LEANNE: [00:12:49] I think it’s an excellent rule.
KELLY: [00:12:50] Yes.
RICK: [00:12:51] So that’s all we have on interview prep. Let’s go on and talk about the types of interview questions that a job seeker might face during an interview. So what are behavioral interview questions and why do hiring managers or H.R. professionals use them?
LEANNE: [00:13:07] So behavioral interview questions are questions, obviously, that are not yes or no questions, they’re open ended, they’re situational, and they want to get at how you have handled a specific situation in the past.
KELLY: [00:13:25] And for really any interview, what I would recommend is that you have stories that you can tell and I say stories because it makes, generally makes a candidate feel a little bit more comfortable. So if you think about some situations that you’ve been in, some task that you’ve been assigned, then the actions that you’ve taken and the results that you’ve received is generally known as Star – S.T.A.R. That helps you prepare for almost any question that an interviewer would ask. I recommend that you have two to three of those that you have practiced. You can practice in the shower, riding down the road, but you want to make sure that it becomes your story, that you feel comfortable in responding. And if you think that you can’t remember, because a lot of people do get nervous, you can always carry a portfolio in with you, you can have notes or key words or key pictures that’s on that portfolio that will kick-start your mind so that it’ll help you remember what your story was. And that way you always have an answer to, I’d say, 90 percent of the questions. If you have two to three stories prepared ahead of time.
RICK: [00:14:36] I can tell you one thing that we have is a lot of stories. So you probably read the stories. So you mentioned a STAR approach. Can you just dive a little, just a little bit deeper on what the STAR approach is and kind of rephrase that acronym and what it means?
KELLY: [00:14:53] So most behavioral questions, as Leanne has mentioned, is how you’ve handled the situation in the past. So what an interviewer will do is give you a situation and want you to tell them what you’ve done in the past if you’ve had a similar situation, what actions did you take specifically, I did this, this, this and this. Here’s who I worked with. Here’s what I did in that team. Here’s what we did together. And that results, and the results don’t have to always be positive either. The results maybe they didn’t turn out the way you want it. That’s fine, because it also shows that, hey, we didn’t get the results we wanted, but here’s what we learned from that process. So you want to make sure that you from your resume and that that area is, well, your accomplishments. And I recommend using the STAR method as well as the interview process. You want to use that acronym as much as you possibly can.
LEANNE: [00:15:56] So just a quick example of a very, very basic behavioral question in manufacturing. We asked, what would you do if you saw a fellow employee performing his or her job in an unsafe manner? That’s a pretty simple question. A lot of different answers. Someone could provide, you know, do you just go tell on them or do you approach that person to say, hey, you’re going to get hurt or do you just ignore it? It’s none of my business, you know? So how would you respond to that? And if you’ve not experienced what they’re asking you, then on the spot, you have to think about, how would I handle that situation? So it may be a question that you’re being asked that you’ve not encountered before. So during the interview, you got to quickly think about how would I handle that? And so, again, that goes back to thinking ahead of time about what they’re looking for in the job so that before the interview you try to anticipate every question that will come out around the skills that they’re looking for.
RICK: [00:16:55] Great, Thank you for that. So in the military, for the most part, it’s not a, it’s not a very “look at me” environment. It’s hard sometimes to talk about ourselves. A lot of times, especially as we get into leadership positions, we defer to team members. And what how the people that surrounded us made us successful. Is that, is that a bad idea in an interview?
KELLY: [00:17:21] It can be, because it is always about me. The question always remains, what can you do? So even if you may be a part of the team and the team accomplished some big feat, whatever that is, what role did you specifically play? And it could be that you facilitated something. You showed leadership in something, you kept the notes. You did the project plan. It doesn’t have to be something huge that led to the outcome, but it was an important part of getting to those results. So you can’t always, because what a company is generally looking for is that you can do work as an individual and work as a team. So you have to highlight both of those things in order to get past the question.
LEANNE: [00:18:13] Right. And I agree, teamwork is great. I mean, every company is looking for that. But as recently as last week when we were debriefing the man, the interview panel, after we interviewed a candidate, a couple of managers said, you know, this person talked about what we did, but he never talked about what he did. And I’m not sure that he really is the person that accomplished this. So as you’re in your job search mode, one of the things that you’ve got to do is you’ve got to be a salesperson and you are the product… you have got to sell yourself because nobody else is. So don’t be afraid. You know, we’re all conditioned to not brag on ourselves, Well most of us are anyway. But you are the product. You’re for sale and you’ve got to go out there and sell yourself. So don’t hold back. You know, obviously don’t misrepresent yourself either if it was a team effort. But don’t be afraid or don’t be too humble to talk about what you have done and the successes that you have had.
RICK: [00:19:06] Thanks. Thanks for clarifying that. And again, I ask that because I think you’re right. A lot of it, especially in the Veteran community, but generally people, in general, I think the first time they have to talk about themselves sometimes maybe in interviews. So I just wanted to get some clarification. So thank you for that. Couple more questions with the interviews. Nonsensical questions, kind of random. You know, if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be? Why do we could ask those questions?
KELLY: [00:19:39] I think sometimes maybe those questions are asked, especially if it is a position where maybe you have to think quickly on your feet, maybe it’s a creative position. And the only thing that I can say about answering those types of questions is, just be the best that you can. So if you’re asked if you were an animal, what animal would it be? And I would say I want to be a dog because my dogs live a fantastic life. And you can just say why? Or maybe you want to be an eagle or maybe you want to be a lion, but just make sure that you have these kinds of things in mind, you know, if you could pick a color. So I just think it’s just to fill space, but it is seeing if you could think quickly on your feet.
LEANNE: [00:20:30] Yeah. And, you know, we talked about this earlier. Sometimes it’s because the interviewer, the interviewer is not very skilled or experienced in interviewing but to me that it’s a nonsensical question. I’m not sure what I can glean from that unless it’s a very creative type job. So, appease the interviewer, you know, go along with the question, don’t challenge it. Don’t say, why are you asking me that? Just go along with it and try to keep your answer brief. You know, don’t talk too much and sink the boat. But, you know, just move the interview along.
RICK: [00:21:06] Well, thank you for that. And the last question with interviews tonight, we are in an environment where a lot of things are virtual or not in person. So, and we touched on a little bit earlier, but if you had to give some advice on how to ace a phone interview or a video interview, you know, in a kind of a couple high level bullet points, what would you say your best practices are for those kind of situations?
KELLY: [00:21:33] Well, I have three. You want to stand up, you want to smile, and you want to look at the camera. Now, as much as I would like to look at the person who I think I’m talking to, I know that the camera’s over here and it’s very difficult because you only look at the person, but you need to look at the camera so that when that person, that interviewer, you’re essentially looking them in the eye through that camera, not through the computer screen.
LEANNE: [00:22:02] Yes. I would say just allow yourself plenty of time. Don’t be rushed so that you’re a very relaxed and make sure, you know, with the virtual world we’re living in. The door’s shut. The kids aren’t running in the background, the dog’s not barking, and be yourself, but smile, you know, smile. Especially on the phone. It might look a little weird to be smiling the whole time. You’re on a video camera, but on the phone, smiling is good because it comes across in your voice. It’s very positive. So just, you know, schedule enough time so that you’re relaxed.
KELLY: [00:22:34] And check your connection ahead of time. Make sure that it works. You don’t want to wait. If your interview’s at 10 clock, you don’t wait till 10:00 to try to get on. You want to make sure that your computer has everything that it needs to be able to log on. And there’s nothing worse than you keep talking and you’re on mute, so you need to know how to work the buttons to make sure that your video was on and there are ways to put a professional picture when your video is off, that it’s not to the black screen that you can put a picture on there. So you want to make sure that you understand and are familiar with the virtual environment that you’re working with, whether it be Zoom or some other package and just do all that ahead of time. It’s just like if you were going in person, you would drive over ahead of time to make sure that you know where the company is, same kind of thing, you want to make sure that your computer equipment is working correctly.
RICK: [00:23:33] So you would dress as if it was an in-person interview and would be ready for that. Would you? Do you have a preference on if I’m on a Zoom interview, if I use a phone, and, or if I’m using a laptop, is there a best practice there?
KELLY: [00:23:47] I don’t think it’s preference. One of the things that I think is very distracting, though, if you’re on the phone and you’re holding it and you’re not still it needs to be put it down or on a tripod or something where the image is still and it’s not moving everywhere because it’s just so distracting to have the image continually moving.
RICK: [00:24:11] OK, well, great. Well, I appreciate that, and that’s, again, a lot of good information regarding interviews. So, I know a situation that happens to a lot of job seekers are applying for job after job after job, and they’ll get a phone call from a recruiter at whatever hour, maybe after hours, maybe it’s during the day that they’re just not ready. How would you advise a job seeker to handle a situation where they get a phone call from it, from a recruiter or a HR professional who wants to talk to them? But they’re just not they’re not ready. They’re not in the right time and space. What would your advice be to that job seeker?
LEANNE: [00:24:49] Well, I think the interviewer or the recruiter is human, too. So they’re going to completely understand. If you say, look, I’m right in the middle of cooking dinner or walking my dog, could I call you back in 10 minutes or could we reschedule this for 7:00 tonight? They won’t be offended, I promise you. And it gives you a chance to collect your thoughts, to go back and look at your notes, the job posting, and just prepare yourself a little bit. Otherwise, you’re going to be a little bit frazzled, caught off guard. You’re not going to be at your best. So it is perfectly OK to say, hey, I can’t talk right now. Can we look at an alternative time?
KELLY: [00:25:27] I agree. The recruiters should ask if you have time to talk – someone may or may not, but I think it’s perfectly acceptable that if they don’t want to. Do what Leanne said, “Hey, I’m in the middle of this, can I call you right back or could we schedule another time?”
RICK: [00:25:46] Thank you for that. So obviously, the interviewing is a major part of getting a job. And there’s a lot that goes into it. And sometimes there are some things that we really maybe don’t think about or we think a lot about and we just don’t know how to ask it. So what happens if I need an accommodation for an interview? So maybe my hearing’s low or I’m in a wheelchair or I have a service animal, but I don’t know who to ask or I don’t even know what to ask. A – is this going to knock me out of the equation? And B – what do I do?
KELLY: [00:26:23] Oh, yeah, I would definitely recommend that whoever you’re talking to at the company that you speak with that person about the accommodation that you need. Will it knock you out of the interview? That’s hard to say because it depends on the company and the person who you’re talking to. We don’t know what kind of experience that they’ve had, but I would definitely start with them because you don’t want to show up to an interview with, let’s say, a service animal or that you need an accommodation because you’re hearing impaired or whatever, and then the company’s caught off guard and they’re not prepared at all. So I would definitely talk to your contact at the company.
LEANNE: [00:27:09] Yeah, I totally agree with Kelly. I mean, you know, to say, look, I really appreciate this opportunity and we’re excited about it, but I need to make you aware of something and I need your help with something. When I come to the interview, this is what you can expect. And I need your help with this. You know, whether it’s the recruiter that you’re talking to or the HR manager or the hiring manager, you need to make them aware on the front end. No surprises. And Kelly is absolutely right. You know, their response really depends on how savvy they are, what the job itself is as to whether it will knock you out of the job. I think more and more employers, thank goodness, are finally getting it and they’re making an effort to accommodate individuals. But, you know, it may be a situation where they immediately know that if you can’t do this, then you can’t do the job and they may make a snap decision to rule you out, unfortunately. But I’d rather learn that on the front end as opposed to wasting your time and their time and learning it two or three weeks later.
RICK: [00:28:10] So are there any are there any legal protections? I know there’s things, certain jobs have requirements like the military. The military can absolutely discriminate against certain disabilities and things like that. So is there anything like that in the civilian world that way to protect me or protect the company from discriminating against me?
KELLY: [00:28:33] For sure. There are laws that protect applicants and employees alike. There are also laws that there are certain areas where maybe a service animal cannot work. And so you have to be aware of that as well. So I think it’s probably similar to the military and not, as Leanne said, not all employers may be up to date. So there are resources to call and maybe we can provide some kind of resource list for people if they do encounter these kinds of things where they can go get information to help with that.
RICK: [00:29:13] Thank you guys for that. I mean, that’s a very important topic, especially in the Veteran community with the disability and the ADA Act. So I just wanted to touch on that a little bit. I appreciate your insight on it. So we’re going to go ahead and talk about references are things that we put on our resumes. Are you really going to call my school and make sure that they graduate? Are you really going to call the references that I listed when I when I turned them in?
KELLY: [00:29:43] I would expect that, yes, for the most part, it’s just like getting security clearance in the military where you have a background check, it’s similar, and industry, and it also depends on what type of industry you’re in. So if the job requires a degree for sure, the company will likely verify that you actually have that degree. And also, if the company requests references, they’re generally going to check those. You may also be required to do a background check, may be required to do a drug screening. So go ahead and expect those and be prepared to provide that information.
LEANNE: [00:30:26] Yeah, I would err on the side of yes. That the employer will check those things. And on personal references, whatever you do, if you list personal references, make sure you call that person that you’re putting down as a reference to make sure they’re going to give you a good reference and to give them a heads up that they may be called, just out of common courtesy. You don’t want them to be contacted out of the blue, but error on the side of expecting a full background check, a reference check.
RICK: [00:30:53] Great. And last but not least, so good. We’ve done everything. We did the interview. We did everything we’re supposed to do now. Ah, thank you notes. Still a thing?
KELLY: [00:31:06] They are rare. But I can tell you, if you want to set yourself apart from other candidates, you send a thank you note. Now, it doesn’t have to be a handwritten note. Those are nice for a lot of companies and a lot of hiring managers. But a simple email, and that email or that thank you note should go to each person that you interviewed with and it should be specific to that interviewer. So I mentioned a previous module to make sure that you have a portfolio, maybe take notes. So if I found out, if I’m interviewing with Rick and I found out that he is a fan of Ohio State, then maybe I can reference that in that thank you note or something that I maybe had forgotten to say or that I want to reinforce. I would want to put that in there. So it does seem to be personalized per individual. And I guarantee you that will set you apart from 90 percent of the other candidates.
LEANNE: [00:32:05] I totally agree.
RICK: [00:32:08] Well, thank you. Thanks for that. And we ended with that because, again, I think it is so rare. You know, there’s some resources out there that don’t even mention it any more. So I agree. I think a thank you note goes a long way. I’m a recruiter and when I get one, it definitely sets a candidate apart.
So that’s all of the questions we have for interview techniques So, again, I appreciate your time. It’s been a great session. Again, a lot more information to put in your toolkit, help you Crack that Code when you finally do land that interview. And again, I appreciate your being here. Take this information, use it, go for it and do great things. And good luck in your search.