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Getting a job interview turned out to be less of a hurdle than Connie Corwin expected when she began her first job search in three decades.
Corwin, a member of OpsLadder, had not experienced an interview in more than 30 years. She had only known one employer, General Motors, where she had started after high school, working her way up to operations manager in the powertrain division at a manufacturing plant near Flint, Mich.
Corwin said she decided to leave in 2010 before outside forces made the decision for her. She had her resume professionally rewritten, recruiters were returning her phone calls, and she was getting job interviews. It was what happened once she entered the interview room that stymied her at every turn.
“I would be asked during an interview, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ and I wasn’t sure what to say, and I would give a really long answer that was very broad,” she recalled. “I gave the interviewer more information than they wanted or needed.”
She stumbled through the answers on several interviews before concluding that she needed to prepare every answer for every question she might possibly face. “I needed to have specifics, instead of talking in broad themes and vague descriptions.”
Corwin searched online for sample interview questions; she read books by human-resources experts; and she relied on her own experiences to develop a list of the 50 interview questions she was most likely to face on any given job interview, including “Why did you leave your last job?” “What did you like most about your job?”and “How would your boss describe you?” She then answered every question and practiced every response.
“I spent quite a bit of time trying to communicate what it was the interviewer wanted to know,” Corwin said. “When they asked, ‘Why did you leave your last job?’ I knew they wanted to hear my thought process in making this huge decision to leave my job in a tough economy. My response was to explain all the things about my previous position that said to me it was time to move on and what I hoped to tackle in my next job.”
Another question that she had stumbled on in early interviews was, “What were some of the important things you accomplished in your last job?” To answer that one, Corwin looked at her resume, pulled out key areas where she had led her team to success, and explained why those successes were important to the company.
“I did the bullet-point thing (verbally),” she said. “I did a two-sentence summary of whatever I was talking about, named some important skills, and then quickly summarized. You can only hold people’s attention for so long. I timed myself so I could answer a question in two minutes.”
Corwin credited her interview-prep method with preparing her for job interviews that eventually led to multiple job offers, including one for a plant-manager position at an aerospace components manufacturer in Seattle.
The 10-page document she created went with her on every interview. “The night before an interview, I would start at the beginning and read through every question. I didn’t memorize it, but I would read it like you would read a story.”
During an interview with a single company, Corwin said, she would be asked at least 60 percent of the questions on her list. “I couldn’t imagine a question they would come up with that I wouldn’t have a response for,” she said. “It’s a great list. Some people like to wing it, but I like to be prepared.”