I promise you that after reading this post you will be able to ace any engineering job interview. While the beginning of the post may sound like a college movie gone bad, if you read to the end, it will all make sense and be very useful for you.
Angelo Bastoli from Kappa Kappa Kanupa fraternity had his orders – head down to one of the local liquor stores and purchase a large quantity of Stella Artois beer for that evening’s European theme party. Stella Artois is an affordable Belgium beer and based on the fraternity’s budget and the quantity of beer needed it was decided that Stella Artois would be the perfect beverage for their theme party.
Since there were so many liquor stores in town, Angelo thought it would be best to call a few to make sure they had what he needed before venturing out. Like any good pledge, Angelo was determined to follow orders and get exactly what was needed for the party.
The first call he placed was to Bubba’s Liquor Store and the fact that Bubba answered the phone himself pleasantly surprised Angelo. Bubba answered, “Bubba’s Liquor Store, Bubba speaking, how can I help you?” Angelo said, “Yes hi we are hosting a theme party at my fraternity tonight and I need to purchase a large quantity of Belgian beer, specifically,” and then Bubba cut Angelo off and said, “Yes of course we can help you fill that large order. We have all types of Belgium and other European beers. Whatever you can imagine, we have it. Come on down and we’ll get you what you need.” Based on that response, Angelo though it made sense to take a drive down to Bubba’s and there were always plenty of other stores along the way as a back up.
When he hung up the phone, Angleo became distracted with a few other fraternity and schoolwork related items, and didn’t get to head down to Bubba’s until about an hour before the party. He walks into Bubba’s Liquor Store and reminds Bubba of their earlier conversation. Angelo says to Bubba, “We need about 20 cases of Stella Artois for our party which starts in an hour.” 20 cases of Belgium beer is a huge order for a small shop like Bubba’s, however upon Angelo’s request Bubba’s face dropped. Bubba responded, “We are all out of Stella and our partnering store is 90 minutes away so even if they have it, we won’t be able to get it here on time. I wish you would have mentioned that to me when you had called this morning.” Angelo responded, “I wish you would have asked.” Angelo then went on to Jim-Bob’s liquor store down the street, secured the Stella and made it to the party just in time.
How does this story relate to an interview for an engineering job? Think of it this way. The fraternity is the hiring company and Angelo is the hiring manager conducting the interview. The liquor stores are the candidates. Angelo received a resume from Bubba, which gave him enough interest to conduct a phone and eventually an in-person interview. When they started the interview rather than finding out what the fraternity needed in their job search, Bubba told them how great his store was and how he could offer them so many different things. The problem is, they didn’t want to so many different things, they didn’t need so many different things; they needed Stella Artois. Because he didn’t ask the right question during the interview, he didn’t get the sale, or for purposes of this analogy – the job!
When you go for a job interview, the natural thing to want to do is tell the prospective employer all of the good things about yourself and your background, when in essence the only thing that really matters in their eyes is whether or not you can fill their specific need. Go into the interview with a strong, brief introduction and then ask a question, like, “Can you give me some details about the day-to-day responsibilities of this position?” When they answer this question, they are giving you a wealth of information, they are telling you exactly what they are looking for; then you can spend the rest of the interview explaining to them how you are a perfect match. For example, if they say the person in this position will be responsible for performing field inspections, writing field reports and logs and then briefing their supervisor on progress regularly, you can respond to them by saying, “Well I am a perfect match for you then because in my last internship I performed on-site inspections for a large XYZ project, I wrote field reports and logs and reported everything to my supervisor on a daily basis.” This doesn’t necessarily guarantee you the job, but increases your chances dramatically. Just think about it about it, If Bubba had asked Angelo if there was a specific type of beer that he wanted, he wouldn’t have missed out on this sale and future sales from the same client.
While it’s important to relay your expertise to a prospective employer, it’s more important to make it clear to them exactly how and why you are the best candidate for filling their specific needs.
This is a guest post by Anthony Fasano, PE, author of Engineer Your Own Success. Anthony found success as an engineer at a very early age and now writes and podcasts to help other engineers do the same. Visit Anthony’s website at EngineeringCareerCoach.com and subscribe to the top 3 resources Anthony has used to become a partner in a firm at the age of 27.