How can I best ace a job interview?

March 5th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Hi Rabbi Lapin and Susan Lapin,

I am a great follower of TCT ancient Jewish wisdom. It is a great show and most importantly inspiring for life. I have a quick question.

I have graduated with my MS in mechanical engineering, but still I am facing difficulties in  finding a job. Could you please give some useful tips on how to sell.

All the best for your works. God bless your family,

A. J.

Dear A. J.,

Congratulations on earning your MS in engineering.  Unlike a degree in gender discrimination in Russian literature, your degree is a real accomplishment. But, and it’s a big but, a company is not hiring your degree, it is hiring a complete person who possesses a degree.

Potential employers want to know much more than merely that you can solve differential equations.  They want to know about your integrity, your intelligence, your persistence and grit, your resilience and optimism, and they want to know your loyalty.  A piece of paper proves your degree but these other equally important characteristics can only be sensed by an interview.  Therein lies the importance of the interview and in being really thoroughly prepared for that interview.  It is in the hope of discovering these qualities that your interviewer will ask you many questions that seem to be quite disconnected from engineering.  It is your total demeanor that will offer the interviewer clues to your entire personality.

So we agree, indeed you do have a quick question; unfortunately, we don’t have a quick answer. But we will try to guide you towards a path to the answer.

We aren’t clear whether you are talking of learning how to sell yourself in job interviews or whether you are thinking of entering the profession of sales. Many of the same tips apply to both areas.

Whether you are selling yourself and your skills or a service or product there is one important concept that you need to keep in mind. While obviously, you need and expect the salary, fee or commission to be paid to you, your focus during the interaction needs to be on how you are benefiting the other person. How will this company be better off if they hire you? In what way will your customer’s life improve if they purchase this item from you? Why is it in the person’s best interests to form a relationship with you?

Once you believe in what you are selling you want to set yourself up for success. A vital feature of sales (and job-seeking is a sales job as well) is resilience. You have to be able to bounce back from rejection. After every job you don’t get or sale you don’t make, you should analyze what you could have done better, but then you pick yourself up and make another effort. It is worth doing mock interviews/exchanges with a trusted mentor who will give you feedback on ways you can improve.

Whether you are interviewing for a job or whether you are in a sales meeting with a potential customer, your most important tool is your mouth.  Are you projecting your voice confidently?  Are you articulating your words clearly?  Are you using the best vocabulary?  Do a mock interview with a good friend and video tape your performance. Carefully study it and identify areas needing work.  Our book Thou Shall Prosper addresses the details of how to increase the effectiveness of your communication. 

We urge you to invest sufficient time and energy in research.  So many applicants squander job interviews by failing to know enough about the company with which they are interviewing. Similarly, knowing as much as possible about the sales prospect with whom you’re meeting can spell the difference between success and failure. 

No matter if it is your engineering skills or a kitchen appliance, people are more likely to do business with you if they know you, like you and trust you—or know someone else who does. When we moved to a new city, we didn’t open the yellow pages to look for a doctor —we asked our friends. We do the same thing when we’re in the market for a new refrigerator and, yes, for a new employee.

Be a part of your community and of as many lives as you can.  Don’t forget that most jobs are filled via personal introduction not advertisements.  Most companies prefer to hire friends of existing employees and often reward those employees for suggesting candidates.  Ask trusted relatives and friends how you come across in social interactions and listen non-defensively to their responses. We do have an audio CD that we recommend to you: Prosperity Power: Connect for Success. It is on sale this week and is chock full of recommendations for ways that even introverted and shy people can expand their circle of connection.

Wishing you the best in whatever you pursue,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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7 comments

Bruce Frank says:

Funny that I have experience in both engineering and outside sales. Competency in engineering has smaller impact that competency in selling…whether for an engineering job or a selling job. Selling oneself appears the crux of the problem, and is necessary for any job. Interesting that most good sales people get job offers all the time from the people to whom they sell their products. One of the best sales people I know was offered, and he took, a job as an engineering consultant though he had no college degree at all.

Courses on “selling” are available at many community colleges and the principals learned apply to both selling yourself and your product. One significant point about any kind of job, do not get hung up by a desire to stay in your current physical location. A few years experience on a job will enhance the resume that will allow relocation to your desired on in a few years.

Paula says:

If someone is having difficulty finding a job, especially one with a good degree, I suggest that you find an employment coach that can look over your resume, and help you practice interviewing. If there are issues you’re unaware of they can help with those too. Some job markets are just tough. A coach will cost, but you’ll likely learn a lot too. It’s a life skill after all, so look upon it as an investment.

Brian Glover says:

I’m a mech engineer and I hired many engineers in my time. My business was competition auto chassis design.
It is the only degree that what you do when you are employed is exactly the same as what you did at school. Products that require a mech engineer are the most capital intensive in terms of design and development costs. You can’t BS your way into employment. CAD programs and their add ons will expose an imposter immediately.
They don’t care about the personality of the applicant and whether he can work well with others because he deals with the natural laws of God. You can’t fool God. You become a leader with you abilities only.
Mech engineers are not paid what they are worth because they are often exploited. They live in a world that few understand. It can be pretty lonely. We are not talking lawyers here who live in an alternate reality. Mech engineers live in a world of absolute truth. The interview will be a pleasant experience as a result.
Creativity in engineering is a God given gift. You either have it or you don’t.
Does A,J have to have a passion for a certain type of product? Specialization is prevalent with modern graduates but global thinkers of the product are paramount for the lead engineer. An engineer who can grasp the big picture is always helpful.
You may be able to save the cost of a completed design in production or have an idea of how to improve the design. Production engineering is just as rewarding as any other mech engineering if you are so inclined.
You must bring something unique to the table otherwise you will be assigned very boring jobs.
AJ must be very familiar with the products and the history of the company that he wishes to be employed. Even look at the stock value and growth of the company. Know who the directors are and their place in the market.
A friend of mine applied at a major brewery directly after graduating. Within two years, he was the lead production engineer. Cans, bottles, labels, tops, filling, etc. The people under him had every kind of science degree that you can think of. He loved his work. He had nothing to do with the creation of the products.
Chassis design is a black art. It is impossible for a German engineer to design a chassis like that of a cheap ‘ol Toyota Avalon. It rides far better than any luxury German car with no electronic chassis aids. I don’t have the ability to create such a refined chassis but I know it when I see it.
A.J will be given an aptitude test. Letters from his professors praising his unique abilities would be helpful. What type of labs did he work in? Did he tour factories? I could not hire an engineer who didn’t love race cars with a passion.
Smart engineers don’t often score the highest grades. AJ’s relationships with his professors is a good indication of how he will perform in the market place or an engineering office. Professors can recognize unique students and they will assist you in landing a job. Check out the companies that have an interest in your school.
There is such a thing as born engineers, fighter pilots, musicians and chassis designers.
A mech engineer grad is like no other grad. Ability and talent are the only things that count. Hope this helps.

The family business around which I grew up was based on mechanical engineering. As a family business, the principals (my father and grandfather) had to be good salespeople as well. First lesson: A problem well-stated is half-solved. Your potential employer has a need and you MIGHT be the solution, however you have to dig to flesh out the problem/need before offering yourself as the solution. Dig well and you have a job. Second lesson: This process of digging will also help in the features & benefits part of selling. You have a feature, e.g. a degree (ho-hum) and this feature will be a benefit to the employer because it solves a specific problem (yippee!) you found in the digging process. Lesson from an interviewing class: Work on a “60 second me”. A standard opening interview question is “Tell me about yourself.” You have one minute before the interviewer gets bored. Write out, polish and rehearse the answer to that question. Just don’t rehearse it in front of your mother; you need a tougher audience.
Good luck and have fun with this.

Tom says:

Do your homework before the interview and find a perplexing problem the company has that you can solve. Then, during the interview, give a brief sample of your understanding of the problem and how you can profitably solve it for both the company and yourself. If you can do that, your probability of getting hired increases. If you can’t do that, then you’re just like all of the other candidates. Give them a reason to hire you.

Best wishes!

Brian F. Tucker says:

While not being a “salesman” I have breifly held a few sales jobs. Two minor but important rules I learned were 1 never start your speal with, you don’t want to buy a blank, do you. And 2 never assume someone want to buy your product. When newly wed my wife and I joined a company selling home care products out of our home. At one of home partys one dear lady sat thru our entire presentation with her arms folded and a scowl on her face. She ended up buying more than anyone else in the room. Never assume that someone isn’t interested in your product or service.
Respectfully,
Brian

Susan Lapin says:

What a great early lesson you and your wife got, Brian.

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