Interviewing for Success! Part One: “8 Steps to Prep”

All too often people spend a great deal of time and effort researching companies and blasting out resumes without thoroughly planning out the entire process.  Ok, your resume has gotten you in the door – now what is your plan to get the job?  Some candidates feel if “I can just get the interview, I am sure to get the job”.  Stop right there.  You could be setting yourself up for failure.  To ensure you are able to attain that dream job, get your process down!  Follow these simple tips to ensure this opportunity to make a first impression that will blow them out of the water!

Create an Agenda
As your interview is being scheduled, ask who you will be meeting with, including their titles, as well as any information each of them plan to cover.  Most organized companies have a well-defined talent evaluation process by which each person focuses on a particular aspect of the candidate.  (i.e., one person may handle behaviors, motivation, commitment; another may handle prior employers and reasons for leaving each; and one interviewer may cover compensation, future expectations, and skills relative to the job.) Knowing what each person will cover will allow you to prepare and focus your answers to the specific areas each interviewer will cover.  They may not give it to you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Educate Yourself
Review press releases from the company’s website and Google recent news about the firm.  Research some of the company’s biggest competitors.  Be able to relate recent activity within the company to your interviewers, demonstrating that you are truly interested in the company for more than just a job. Not only will this exemplify that you are truly committed to understanding your potential employer, but will also exhibit your ability to gain market information and potentially use competitor information to further your company.

Research Your Interviewers
If you are able to obtain the names of the interviewers in advance, do your homework on each person.  Linkedin is a great resource for reviewing professional backgrounds.  Look for commonality that can be used as conversation starters.  People like to hire people just like them.  You can effectively use common ground to help a hiring manager see you as something other than just another candidate.

Put Your Recruiter To Work

If you have been introduced to a company through a recruiter, ask them to get you as much detail as possible about each interviewer.  Ask about the culture and try to identify what issues and/or challenges the hiring manager is currently facing.  If you can get some information in advance, you may be able to weave your applicable skills and qualities into the conversation.

Memorize the Job Description
Well, you don’t actually have to memorize it, but make sure you have read it numerous times and are able to communicate it back to your interviewer reasonably well.  Nothing is worse than a candidate that is not familiar with a job description that has been provided in advance.  Keep a copy of the description with you. Know it inside and out.  Prepare for your interview by drawing parallels between your experience and this new opportunity.  Be able to justify why you are the best one for the job.

Prepare Your Plan
If appropriate for the position, prepare a sample plan of things you would do in the first 30/60/90 days.  This can demonstrate that you are organized and know how to present a business plan. Walk though it with the hiring manager and explain how you came up with each item and how you would execute the plan.  It may not be exactly on target, but it will help you stand out from your competition.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Practice interviewing in front of a mirror.  Do you look relaxed?  How do you see yourself?  What gestures could you make to appear more engaging or dynamic? Conducting a mock interview with a business professional is a good way to do a dry run of your interview.  Have them give you their honest opinion of things you could improve upon.  Remember — it is better to practice prior and not in front of your future employer! If you have a video camera at your disposal, record your mock interview.  Look at it honestly and critically judge how you present yourself. Listen to how you answered questions and determine if there are ways to communicate more thoughtfully or thoroughly.

What Do I Wear?
These days, business casual (or even shorts and flip flops) are commonplace in many industries and companies.  That’s OK once you’re in the door, but it doesn’t usually fly for making a first impression.  Be sure to dress professionally.  Doesn’t matter where you are going — no one will ever fault you for dressing to impress.  Over the years we have seen inappropriate attire blow the interview before it even starts.

So there you have the initial steps of interview preparation.  If you think taking five minutes to do a quick Google search on a company is enough, you are mistaken.  Your competition for the job already has you beat!  In the wise words of Ben Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Check back with us on Monday March 2, 2009 for more great tips in Interviewing for Success! Part Two


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