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Customs and Border Services Officer Job Interview Coach Part 2

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Recap

In our last post, I shared with you some of my observations from a job interview coaching session we had recently completed in Vancouver BC for a candidate interviewing for a Border Services Officer job. In today’s post, we will continue with some additional suggestions and feedback.

Weaknesses As a Border Services Officer

As mentioned in our previous post, it is very beneficial to know the job and review the job posting that you are applying for. Why do I say this, well when we asked our candidate from Vancouver to:

“Describe your greatest weakness”

Our candidate responded by saying that her greatest weakness is attention to detail. She then went on to say how it’s not something she likes wishes she could improve on.  Well, at least she didn’t claim that her weakness is, “that I am a perfectionist….or that I work too hard”.  Whether as a job interview coach or when I was in HR, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that old tired line.

Do Not Cite a Weakness Fundamental to the Job

When answering this classic interview question, the first step in the strategy is to chose something that is not fundamental to the job. For example, if you are interviewing for an Accountant job, you would not want to cite that math and numbers is your weakness. Likewise, if you are applying for a writing job you would not want to say that you are poor with words. So our candidate cited that her weakness is attention to detail. When considering that Border Services Officers often catch criminals by noticing what many civilians would consider minor but inconsistent details; attention to detail is an important competency and not one you would want to cite as a weakness if possible.

The other common mistake made was the candidate did not explain what she was doing to improve on her weakness and what results she has achieved. She simply stated that attention to detail was her weaknesses and ended there.

After evaluating her response, we worked on how she could improve her answer. As her job interview coach, I suggested that she try to come up with an alternative response to the attention to detail response. Instead, she spoke to her weakness technology, in particular not being as PC literate as she would like. While computers have permeated almost every job and industry, an employer would much rather have a Border Services Officer who was not a computer genius rather than one who does not pay attention to detail. Further, we covered what she was doing to improve this less than proficient computer ability. After our coaching, when comparing her before and after response, it was clear that she improved greatly.

Pay Attention to the Core Competencies and Job Requirements

It is so important to understand the job’s core functions and competencies. You must understand what are the most important responsibilities in the job you are applying to . Also you need to understand what the most important traits, characteristics and skills are in the ideal candidate. If you do not understand the above things will be very disadvantaged in the interview. Let me illustrate with an example:

We wanted to assess our candidates ability to handle conflict with others. So we asked the following questions:

“As a border services officer, you will often be dealing with conflict. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict with someone you work with.”

Wanting to appear like a team player, our candidate Vancouver responded by saying, that she gets along with everybody and has not had a conflict with anyone at work. Again as a job interview coach, I have seen this many times before in interviews. You may think that you are showing the interviewer that you are well-liked at work. However, it could also signal that your way of dealing with conflict is to avoid it. Regardless, with no example cited interviewer cannot evaluate your response. As such, if you answered this way, you would get a zero for this question.

So why was this such a mistake? Because handling conflict and conflict resolution skills are core requirements of the job. Handling conflict and conflict resolution skills are cited right on the border services officer job posting.

So like I said is very important for you to review and really no accord job requirements and competencies. And one key area to start familiarizing yourself with what the employer is looking for is to look at the job posting. Well it’s time to windup this blog post. Until next time, we wish you much luck and success with your career.