Are you applying for positions in the health and safety field? The job hunting process can be stressful, but it does not have to be if you are well-prepared. This post discusses general interview tips as well as advice and examples that are specific to landing a career in workplace safety.
I will provide tips and real-world examples that will help you land a job in the health and safety field.
General Interview Tips
Before jumping into the tips that are specific to environmental, health, and safety positions, it is a best practice to brush up on general interview tips. If you feel that you have a good understanding of preparing for an interview, skip to the safety interview tips below!
Review the Company’s Background and the Role You Are Applying For
This tip is first because it is step one in being prepared for the interview process. If you do not know what a company does or what is required of the role you are applying for, you are wasting everyone’s time.
Ensure you understand what the company does. Browse their website, online reviews, YouTube videos, social media, etc. Make mental notes of how your past experience relates to the company and the role you are interviewing for.
Review the Individuals’ Background You Be Interviewing With
You should know who you are interviewing with during each stage of the process. There are many benefits in doing so, including:
- Making personal connections with the interviewers.
- Understanding the potential career path you may have in the new role.
- Getting insight into potential questions to ask each person.
In the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, a recurring lesson is to be interested instead of interesting when interacting with others. We all love to talk about ourselves, and the individuals interviewing you are no different.
By knowing their background and being able to connect with them during the interview, it shows that you are engaged. Being interested can take pressure off of you trying to be interesting during the entire interview process.
As an interviewee, it can come with the feeling of not being the one in control of the situation. Or you may have been looking for a job for a while and are starting to feel a bit desperate to get that next role. These are normal feelings, but it is important not to show them during the interview process.
The truth is, you may get passed on for several roles before finding the one you ultimately land. When I was interviewing for loss control positions in the insurance industry, I made it to the final interview for two companies and was passed on for individuals who had insurance industry experience, which was a blessing in disguise. I ended up getting the third role I applied for, which I absolutely love.
It is essential to keep your head held high and to know your worth when interviewing, even if you have already faced rejection for several roles. Be sure of yourself and your abilities during the interview process. Look the interviewers in the eye and communicate clearly when responding to their questions.
Be Prepared for Common but Tricky Interview Questions
There is nothing worse than interviews, especially if you have already interviewed with several companies. The applications are often long, the process can be dragged out, and the questions asked of you can be tricky. There are often several questions that are asked at some point throughout an interview process that you can be prepared for ahead of time, so you are not caught off guard.
Here are several common but tricky interview questions that you should have an answer for:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your biggest strengths?
- What are your biggest weaknesses?
- Tell me about a time you ran into a tough problem and what did you do to solve it?
- Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a coworker and how did you remedy it?
- Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?
I will not go into how to answer these questions, but a quick Google search will produce helpful information in answering these questions. The truth is, there are many individuals who take part in interviews, and they are not trained to do so. They, like you, will refer to the internet to get information regarding what questions to ask during an interview.
There may also be some off-the-wall questions asked of you. For example, one time, I was asked, “If you were a cartoon character, which one would you be and why?” when I was interviewing for a summer safety intern position. Looking back, the question is unnecessary and arguably a waste of time, but sometimes you need to deal with BS during this process. If you are able to think quickly on your feet and provide a relevant answer, it shows that you can problem solve and think creatively.
These questions are still dumb, nonetheless.
Do Not Ask Questions About Benefits
I rent an office at the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, TN, and there is a recruiting company that sits next to me, so I get to hear a lot of communication between them and applicants they are trying to place at various companies. One tip they consistently give to applicants when preparing them for interviews is to not ask about benefits such as PTO, flex work, etc. during the first interview unless they are brought up by the interviewers.
The reason being is that the first interview or two should focus more on why you are a fit for the role and for you to be able to express interest in the company you are applying to work for. There is often limited time dedicated to these first few interviews. Asking about benefits can make it seem that you care more about pay or how much time you have off instead of working for the company.
These items are important, and you should not settle for a role that does not meet your expectations. That being said, wait to discuss these items after the interviewers want to offer you a position. You can always negotiate for these items later on, especially if you do well throughout the interview process.
Have Questions for the Interviewers
It is common for interviewers to ask if you have any questions for them at the end of the interview. You should come prepared with a few questions to ask the interviewers if provided the chance. Indeed.com has a great list of 39 questions to ask at the end of an interview. You can find this list by clicking here. Here are four questions that I liked from their list:
- What is your favorite thing about working for the company?
- What does the ideal candidate for this role look like?
- Is this a new position? If not, why did the person leave before me?
- Is there a typical career path for this role?
Thoughtful questions show the interviewers that you are interested in the role, and the answers can also give you insight as to whether it is a role you are interested in. The answers can also help you during the next round of interviews.
Two Important Interview Tips for Safety Jobs
Now that we have covered general interview best practices, let’s look at some best practices that will help you prepare for interviews in the safety field. There are only two tips listed below, but in my opinion, they are the most important if you want to separate yourself from other applicants.
Relate Past Experience to the Position Being Applied For
This tip applies to everyone, even if this will be your first safety position. If you already have experience in the safety field, it will most likely be easier to relate previous work experience you have to the new role you are applying for.
If you do not have experience in the safety field, that is okay. You may not be able to reference specific safety responsibilities and experience that you had in the past, but you can always find examples of how past roles align with the new role you are going after.
If you are applying for your first role in the safety field, then most likely, it is a role that requires little safety-specific experience. Browse the job posting or job description for what is expected of the role and think about how you can communicate to the potential employer that you fit this description.
As an example, let’s say that the job description includes two lines that mention “applicant must be able to handle multiple projects” and “applicant may have to work long hours occasionally.” We will pretend that you are a new college graduate who worked all throughout college to pay your way through school. You can mention how you balanced your school work with working a job to demonstrate that you can handle multiple projects as well as handle working longer hours.
This is a simple example for the sake of this post, but it is important to be able to think creatively and tie in past experience in unrelated roles or situations to the job you are applying for. If you have less experience, you will have to rely more on your “soft skills” like time management, communication, work ethic, working with others, etc., since you do not have safety-specific experience.
If you have safety experience that is directly related to the role you are applying for, then this process is a bit more straightforward. Once you understand the role and the company you are interviewing with, you should be prepared to share how you have the “hard skills” or technical knowledge to be successful in the safety role that you are applying for. Sharing examples of your “soft skills” is still important as well since safety requires many of these skills.
Come Prepared with Examples of Achievements in Previous Roles
Once again, this tip will vary depending on whether or not you have experience in the safety field. If not, it still applies and is arguably the most important tip on this list. The ultimate goal of the company interviewing candidates for a position is to find someone who can handle the role and make a meaningful impact towards its business goals.
As a candidate for a role, you need to communicate that you are the person they are looking for. While thoughtful answers about who you are and what your strengths are helpful for the interviewers, being able to provide concrete examples of achievements and meaningful changes you led in previous roles is vital.
By providing examples and proof, if possible, you give tangible evidence to the potential employer that you can be a value-add to the organization. I will not provide examples for those individuals who may not have safety experience since the example for the tip above relates closely to this one. For individuals who do have safety experience, make a list of achievements you had or impactful projects that you led in previous roles.
If you are asked a question along these lines, it can be surprisingly difficult to give thoughtful and clear examples (I am speaking from experience). You do not have to bring a physical list of these items into the interview, but if you do have physical copies of supporting evidence of these achievements or projects, it can go a long way.
Taking the time to prepare a list of achievements and having supporting evidence shows the interviewers that you are a self-starter and have taken the interview process seriously. This can set you apart from other applicants, even ones with more experience or who are better credentialed than you are.
As an example, I do not plan on leaving my current role any time soon, but since starting this job, I have kept a list of all of the projects I have led and the impacts that the projects had on the business or on our department. One of the items on my list is an idea for a report that brings in loss information for our clients and puts it into a written summary that provides an overview of loss frequency, types of losses, reporting time, etc. In the past, my team had to manually review loss runs to try and put together an accurate summary of the loss history.
This process was time-consuming and left room for errors to occur. If I were going to an interview tomorrow, I would bring a copy of that report as well as the impact that it had on our department. The results that I could share with the potential employer include cost savings of personnel time, reduced errors in this report, and a better understanding of our clients’ loss history.
The job-hunting process can be exciting if you are well-prepared for the interview process. It is easy to forget that companies spend a lot of resources to find new candidates and onboard them, so they want to ensure they are making the right decision. This usually equates to a long, drawn-out process and multiple interviews before you ever hear if you are offered the position or not.
Remember, you have power during this process. If a company passes on you, then maybe you were not the right fit, or they just missed out. Be a prepared and confident candidate, and you will find the career you are seeking.
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