So, you’ve got the sought-after interview opportunity, now what? Just like in pro sports, you’re competing to win, right? Remember that every position in every industry is competitive. If you want to “win” the job, you can’t let your competitors (other applicants) one-up you. If you aren’t showing up to the interview owning your personal brand with the best knowledge and presentation of yourself, you might as well go home. In reality, if you don’t care enough to show up well prepared, don’t waste their time or yours.
Keep in mind the Five P’s of success for everyday life, and especially in your interview preparation: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews during my career. I feel like I’ve seen it all – the well-prepared, the under-prepared and everything in between. Creating a solid resume and the perfect cover letter is crucial in landing you that interview, but once you walk in the door, it’s on you to land the job.
I’m not aware of a required class that teaches you how to prepare for a job interview, but I sure wish there was. For any young professionals, especially those who are just beginning their job search, preparing for the interview is more than looking over a list of questions that you found on GlassDoor.com. Remember, an interview is a two-way conversation. You need to be prepared to ask them questions about the things that matter to you. Is this company the right fit for you and your career path? The conversation should feel like a tennis match, with both parties hitting the ball back and forth.
I’m often amazed at how many applicants walk in the door with a small purse or no purse (leaving it in the car) and they don’t have anything with them. Nothing. Is that how you prepare for an important meeting? I immediately think they’re not prepared for the meeting and its part of my first impression.
What to bring with you? You need to bring a notebook (preferably one in a nice portfolio) to make notes of your conversation, several copies of your resume and cover letter (on resume paper) as well as reference letters or your references document. Not only does it make you look prepared but imagine if your future employer asks for extra copies of your resume and you have nothing. That would provide a very awkward moment to kick off the interview and they’ll likely think you came unprepared. It’s happened many times in the interviews I’ve conducted. In fact, I’ll ask for a copy just to see if they have one with them.
What else should you do to prepare? Here are some game-changing steps to take to help you win them over:
● Go Above and Beyond… Do Your Research: You want this position, right? As they do in sports, you need to practice like you play. Prepare for it! Research the company and
their management team. Find out who will be in the room during your interview. This is more than just looking at their website once to put in the address for your GPS. Read about how the business got started, know who is on their staff, what their mission is and the current news or projects they’re working on. Check out their social media accounts and Google the company to see information about them on a different platform. Get to know their brand. As an employee, you will be expected to embody this brand, so get a head start and embody that brand before you sit with their leadership. Don’t be afraid to print these pages out, highlight the important parts, and create a binder that you can take into the interview.
● Know Your Market: Surprise, more research! While you're researching this potential employer, research the job position in comparison to other companies. This research will better give you a better knowledge of what the actual job description is, and what all that entails. It will give you a more realistic understanding of the responsibilities, expectations, pay range and benefits when comparing your offer to other offers.
● Now You Can Use Those Questions: Prepare for the expected questions. You know, the “Tell me about yourself”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, and “Why do you want to work for us?” But it’s those unexpected, odd questions that you cannot prepare for that reveal certain personality traits that the hiring manager may be looking for. I really enjoy those types of questions in the interviews I conduct, and we’ll address those in another blog. So why not have your friends and family create a list of odd, unexpected questions that might be asked during the interview. Collect those odd questions and prepare answers for those. You have to prepare for the unexpected and get comfortable being uncomfortable.
● Practice, practice, practice! Just like a pro sports team, you need to study, prepare and practice your delivery for success. Ask a friend or family member to help you do various mock interviews. That includes dressing the part, walking in the door, a firm handshake and having them conduct an interview just as you would expect from the employer. As you’re preparing for questions that might be thrown your way, also prepare for some industry-specific questions. You will also want to practice taking notes of the conversation, even if it’s jotting down the most important topics. Taking notes on your notebook is much more accepted than taking notes on your phone. In fact, do not pull out your phone at all. Keep that in the car.
● Come Prepared with Your Own Questions: I see it all too often when the interviewee adapts to a one-sided conversation interview. Remember, this is your chance to ask your questions to see if this company will be a good fit for you. The interviewer will likely ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” It’s time to figure out what things you’d like to know from them and now’s your chance to ask. Yes, you can pull out your list of questions to go down the ones that weren’t answered during your conversation. If they call you with an offer, you need to have already asked about the benefits package, daily responsibilities, and anything else you want to know.
● Don’t Stretch the Truth: Okay, that may seem obvious, but it’s not to everyone. Do not lie about anything. There is a very distinct difference between up-selling yourself and overselling yourself. Keep your resume and your interview truthful. You never know when an employer might fact check what you put on your resume. In fact, expect them to. Lying not only damages your reputation, but also signs you up for tasks that you can't fulfill. Brag on yourself but know your capabilities.
● Send a Thank You Note: When the interview is completed, you should send a note of thanks. Want to stand out? Send a handwritten thank you note in the mail immediately after the interview (preferably the same day). In fact, you could stop in the lobby, write the note, mention something important they said, and give it to the receptionist as you depart. Whatever you decide, send them a thank you note for their time. This is an important step in the process and shows follow-through.
I highly encourage creating a binder with the various job descriptions, company research, questions to ask, and their answers to your questions. This is a great place to file your notes after each interview and reflect when that offer comes your way.
Be prepared, work for the win and get the job you want! You can do this, and I’ll be rooting for you!
Well, that’s all I have for now.