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Job interviews are like a box of chocolates

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“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Remember this?

Well Forest Gump was wrong. You usually do know. My chocolate research this Valentine’s season shows Gump didn’t see the map inside the box top. It actually tells you what you’re going to get.

A job interview is like a box of chocolates. You can predict what questions will be asked. Here is your chocolate/interview question map to help you prepare for your next interview.

Soft centres: Your interview will probably have soft centre questions such as:

  • Did you have any trouble getting here today?
  • How was the traffic?

Be upbeat:

  • No, I didn’t have trouble getting here. I left home early so that traffic jam wasn’t a problem at all. (Smile.)

Truffles: These are a little heavier but they let you show your qualities.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths?
  • Do you have any questions?

Your interviewer will expect a particular type of answer. The first question prompts a well-rounded picture of you that tells, in about a minute, your experience, education, plus a couple of skills. For “strengths”, name one or two and give an example. For “any questions,” ask a couple of intelligent questions that show you’ve researched the company.

Creams and fruits: Chocolate choices now include experimental centres like chili pepper, but creams and fruits are traditional favorites. Similarly, interviewers have traditional favourites:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What’s your long-term goal?

These openly ask you to reveal your motivation for applying. Any HR person needs to predict whether you will quit too quickly. Be open to the possibility that the interview will lead to a dream job. Imagine an amazing, life-changing experience. Consider lengthy employment, even as a part-timer or consultant.

Caramels: These take time to chew. In interviews, the caramels are behavioural questions like:

  • Tell me about a customer’s request that confused you and how you clarified it.
  • When have you made a presentation with little or no preparation?

To answer, unfold your story with appropriate detail. With practice, you can reveal yourself as the hero: regardless of the outcome, describe what you learned and how you became a better, stronger person.

Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds = risk. Will a sharp nut slice into your gums, hurt your teeth or prompt an allergic reaction? Nut questions appear in interviews, too, with the main ones being, “what’s your weakness?” and “why’d you leave your last job?” These nuts can provoke bad reactions in us. But take heart, chocolate consumer: the nut has protein and gives strength and energy. Grab that nut and bite. Take control and name a mild, but not trivial, weakness. Or name one you have mostly overcome. Show you are a person who learns.

Caramel-nut combos: These are the hardest to manage. You have to chew the nut, possibly sharp and bitter, yet handle the stickiness of the caramel. Caramel-nut questions include:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a personality conflict with a coworker.
  • Tell me about a time when you were unsuccessful at negotiating an agreement.

Stay positive. Do not become negative or blame. Whatever happened, tell your story gently. Forgive others and yourself. End by describing what you learned and how you are a better person because of that experience.

Getting either a box of chocolate or an interview is a lovely gift. There is so much to enjoy in both. This chocolate-interview map helps you to anticipate the experience.


Gwen PawlikowskiAbout the Author:
Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.

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