The real question that most interviewers yearn to ask is off-limits.
They want to know if you are enough like them to admit you to their
very private and exclusive club. The process is like rushing for a
fraternity or sorority; the admissions committee has a radar selector
for who can join. Those who are rejected never learn exactly why.
Too bad we can't witness this acceptance and rejection process to
see for ourselves who wins and the reasons why.
Obviously, interviewers can't ask you if you really fit into their club,
so they substitute questions which they hope will reveal whether or not you belong. And your answer to their masked questions has to be "Yes, I am just like you! Let me tell you how." And then you choose from your life story only that which is a good match for them.
I know you are thinking No! In the workplace we need a variety of talents and a diversity of personalities. Take note: there is always a company culture. And you need to fit in to be accepted.
The following Questions and Tips (Q/T) show how you might go about gaining admission:
Q. Tell us about yourself.
T. You could start chronologically, from when you were the youngest, dumbest and least experienced and work up to the present. But first impressions count. Don't overlook that.
Mentally arrange your work history into meaningful categories that match what you know about your potential employers. If they value team spirit, then you might lead with your group activities, projects, or prior experiences from work or school.
Be willing to adopt their interests. If you know the organization contributes heavily to United Way, don't argue that another charity is the better way. If they have a company softball game, now is not the time to announce your sports-aversion. Does this sound too much like kissing up? Well, if they speak French, and you do too, wouldn't you reference France or make a nice turn of phrase, n'est-ce pas? You'd be a saboteur if you didn't. C'est la vie!
Q. Why do you want to work here?
T. You cannot say you need the money; your spouse is unemployed; your mortgage is worth more than your house; the company is so close by. Not a one. Even if all these reasons are true, you can't mention any one of them. Even your skills at face value aren't enough. You must demonstrate how they would add value specifically to the employer.
Hint: If you were in the employer's shoes with a roomful of candidates, would you want to hire someone who just wants to be paid, someone for whom it is merely convenient, someone who is biding time until a better offer comes along, someone desperate who may not even care about the work itself? Nope. You'd hire the one who can not only improve the organization but also has the enthusiasm to actually do so just the way you'd like it done.
So, are you like them enough for them to want you? Even if you don't think you are, it doesn't really matter. You need to present yourself as if you do. No, I'm not advocating that you should become a clone, just a whole lot more politically savvy if you want to get hired.
Make your luck happen!