Career Tips- Are you prepared to interview

It is common for the process to include a Telephone Interview (TI) as well as one or more Face to Face (F2F) Interviews. In either case, you are interested in the opportunity and the employer is interested in you. Here are some suggestions to ensure you make the best impression possible.

Know Yourself

If your primary objective in considering an opportunity is Money, you will fail, but objectives are important and you need to have a concise list of what yours are.

  • What do you want to achieve? (List in order of importance.)
  • What is it about your current position that is not satisfying?
  • What is the one thing about a new position that would cause you move?
  • Are you ready to leave your current position?
  • Is your life-partner bought-in to your plans? Your children?
  • What are your strengths? Weaknesses?
  • How well do your strengths fit the position you are interviewing for?

A good recruiter is going to ask these types of questions and so will a hiring authority. You should have all of this information available to you, either actually or metaphorically, at your fingertips.

Know the client

Do as much research as possible about the company before you go. Set high expectations of the recruiter and make sure that he/she has spent ample, quality time preparing you. Ask about the culture; Is your personality a good fit for their culture? 
Ask what the needs from the position are beyond what the Job Description (JD) says. Very few opportunities go beyond stating a group of “wants”, but what you are most interested in are the “NEEDS”.

  • What will be the first, most important project I would work on?
  • Was there someone else in this position previously? If so, what happened to them?
  • What was it about my résumé that got your attention?

Be prepared

Whether you carry a briefcase or just a portfolio, you need to be as prepared as you look. Things to have with you are:

  • Copies of your résumé – Bring enough copies of your résumé to distribute to each interviewer you will meet. Make certain that the version you take is the same as the one they received previously. Your résumé is your business card during an interview. It ensures that the interviewer has the right information about you including how to reach you privately if it is necessary to do so.
  • A pad of paper and a writing instrument – This seems so rudimentary as to be offensive but it’s a commonly made mistake. If you do not take notes you exhibit disinterest in the company and job.
  • W-2’s – Be prepared for the fact that many employers will want to see an absolute demonstration of your current compensation. You may not need them but having them shows you at a difference level of preparedness

You should always have some tool to take notes with when you go into an interview so; why not use that to your advantage as a way to prepare.  Page one of your notepad (of course this can be separate from the pad too) should be a reference document that you use while interviewing. This piece of paper has 3 primary components:

  • Summary – The most common opening in an interview is, “So, tell me a little bit about yourself.” Oh no, what do they want to hear? Interviewing starts like this to segue into the conversation. The best response is that Summary from your résumé. Why not take advantage of your hard work? Should you memorize it? No. Should you read it when asked? No. You should know your summary at a level that you can repeat its essence from rote and use this answer consistently as an answer to that request.
  • Achievements – We all tend to answer questions too quickly. We think it makes us look smarter or wittier but it really makes us look more like a “know it all”. If you have a list of your most significant achievements on this piece of paper, you can use them for two purposes. They will act as terrific reminders of those bits of information you wanted to make sure the hiring company got about you. Secondly, they will slow you down because stopping briefly to look at them will give you the appearance of being thoughtful.
  • Your list of Questions – In a TI, you won’t get answers to many of your questions but they are important so Write them Down!! As you go through the interviewing process, glance at them occasionally and mentally check off those that have been answered. If you get the opportunity to physically check them off and or jot down the answers during the day, do so.

What should you Practice?

Practicing means that you should be honest/prepared with content: but during practice be more concerned about form, i.e. the “way” you answer questions, than content.

  1. Be Descriptive – Try to avoid answering “yes” or “no”. Your answers need to be colorful but not too long.
  2. Sell You – DON’T EVER LIE, but remember you are there to market yourself. Explain why you are the right choice for the job but avoid being arrogant.
  3. Avoid Negative Commentary – Whether about your current employer or a past one; a current colleague or a former one, keep things positive. Everything you say is a reflection on you.
  4. Be Determined – Make it clear that you want the job even if you get information that sheds new light on the role. Be positive then reevaluate when you’ve left the interview. It is easy to “bow out gracefully” from an opportunity but impossible to get a “second chance”.
  5. Be Aware of your Body Language – We all rely on visual cues as well as aural. As you observe the interviewer’s body language they are observing yours. Sit erect, be interested, be excited and be an exceptional listener.

Remember: It is fine, even beneficial to pause/reflect on your answers. You will get questions you didn’t expect and interviewers like to know that you can be thoughtful. It is also acceptable to admit that you don’t know the answer to a question. You are fallible and the interviewer knows it but it’s disarming when we are honest about our foibles.

Arrive on Time!

Whether traveling or not, check and double check with both your recruiter and the client to ensure you have the right information about their location. With on-line mapping you have no excuse for getting lost. If you’re not sure how far your hotel is from the address, take a trial run the night before. Whatever you do, don’t get there late.

However, getting there too early is not good either. Shoot for no earlier than 15 minutes ahead of the appointment to no later than 5 minutes before. Your recruiter should tell you if there will be any documents you’ll need to read/fill-in before the interview. If there are, ask how long they’ll take and whether the itinerary includes that in the timeline.

Your Questions

The process is about making sure that this is a job and a company you want to pursue. Have your questions prepared ahead of time so that you get all the information you need to make an informed decision.

  • Why are you having to go to the outside to fill this position rather than promoting from within? The answer to this question will give you a better job description. It will let you know whether anyone within the company wanted the job (e.g. there is something ugly about it) or if none of the current employees were qualified (e.g. are your future peers weak?).
  • How many people have held this position in the last five years? If turnover has been high your radar will react quickly. If the previous people in the position have all been promoted though, this position is a stepping stone within the company.
  • What are some examples of the best results produced by previous holders of this position? With this question you’ll be able to discern your qualifications.

Other questions to consider: 

  • What will my responsibilities and duties be?
  • What are the most challenging aspects of this position in your view? 
  • Can you describe a typical day in this position? 
  • What is the company’s position/philosophy on training?
  • Have you had any recent downsizing or right-sizing? Why? How was it handled?
  • How do you think I would fit into the job and into your organization? 
  • May I see my work area?
  • May I meet some of my future colleagues?

Concluding the Interview

The reality is that most companies will not be prepared to make an offer on the spot. However, you don’t want to leave without being clear about the next steps. Before you ask any questions though about their interest or desire in pursuing you further, make sure you have enough information to know that you want to be pursued.

If you like what you’ve learned and want to continue moving forward, formulate 2 questions like these:

  • First: “I’ve learned a lot today, but it is important for me to know if I have provided enough information for you to determine whether I have what you need for this position.”
  • Second: If no, you want to draw out their objections. “Thank you; I’m glad I asked. If I may, what’s missing?” Or, if yes, “Great. What is our next step?”

Important advice: Regardless of what question you are asking at any stage of the interview, once you have asked sit quietly and wait for an answer. We get unsettled during “pregnant pauses” and feel an overwhelming need to fill the silence. Don’t. If the question was worth asking in the first place, it is worth waiting for them to answer.

Follow-Up to the Interview

NEVER take thank you letters along with you and leave them at the front desk on the way out. Why? If you think about it from the company’s perspective you have just indicated to them that interviewing is something you’ve done a lot of and you have even been able to standardize on your thank you letter. BAD APPROACH.

Make sure you get a business card from everyone that interviews you and take the time to personalize your thank you to each one when you get back home. Yes, it is okay to forward the thank you letter as an attachment to an email but always follow that with a printed, signed and mailed version.

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