In the job search, there are several steps to being offered a position. From the company’s standpoint, the résumé is a tool that is used to determine if you meet the baseline qualifications. From your point of view, remember that the résumé does not get you the job. It only gets you into the interview. The interview is what gets you the job. If you’ve been invited to an interview, you have most likely established that you are qualified to fill the position. But, here is a key point most people don’t realize. During the interview, the interviewer, either consciously or sub-consciously, is asking only one question: “Do I want to work with this person?” With that in mind, here are a few things to consider in preparing for an interview.
Put your name in the search engines and see what pops up. Then check out any images associated with your name. Guess who else is going to put your name in the search engines? That’s right. The interviewer, if he is worth a flip, is going to do the same thing. Now look yourself up on social networking sites and see what an outsider can view of you without being your ‘friend’. Here are just a few things I have found by doing just that with potential interviewees: nude photos, drunken party pictures, racial slurs, profane rants and threats to ex-spouses. No kidding. Clean up your online presence well before time. And just on a matter of principle, keep it clean.
Prep Yourself for the Interview
To use a fighting analogy, you never want to step onto the mat with an unknown opponent. For simplicity, I’ll break this up into three parts.
1. Research the company and position you are applying for. Know what the company looks for in candidates and what the job entails. Find all the information you can about the company’s financial status, legal issues, volunteer contributions, etc. The recruiter is a valuable source of information and will often share many of the things you can use to build this base of knowledge. Friends or family who currently work for the company or have worked there can give you great insight. And, of course, the internet is a beautiful thing. Use it.
2. Try to get an idea of how the interview is conducted. Again, the recruiter will usually be very open about the style of interview used. If you are not sure about the different styles of interviewing and the techniques used, look it up. Be prepared for any style of interview.
3. Prepare a list of the accomplishments and achievements you want to share with the interviewer. I would recommend having the top three things in your mind that you must share during the interview along with another seven that you would like to get into the interview if possible. These are the items which highlight your talents. You want them center stage to help distinguish yourself from the other candidates.
4. Know your own résumé. Often, the interviewer(s) will have a copy of your résumé in front of them and will ask you questions about it. They may be trying to fill in some gaps to answer questions raised during the initial screening. Or the interviewer might be using it as a vehicle to open up the dialogue about your experiences. Either way, you should know your résumé inside and out.
Rehearse the Interview
Get some help. Write down some questions and have someone use them to interview you. Sometimes, an answer that looks good on paper sounds ridiculous when spoken out loud. Hash those mistakes out in the practice interview. Also, since you’ll probably be nervous during the interview, this repetition will help you through the actual interview. Remember to find a way to weave your accomplishments and achievements into your answers.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Rehearse one last time, get your clothes ready and get some rest. Being tired will not help you interview.
Don’t show up obnoxiously early, as the staff will have to find ways to accommodate your presence. You don’t want to start the interview having already been a pain in the butt . Plan to be there 10 minutes early. If you are unsure of the directions, give yourself even more time. You can always park across the street until it is time.
Understand that employment is a lot like marriage. Both sides need to be agreeable to the arrangement for it to work out well. Let them see the real you. If they don’t like the real you, then you don’t want to be stuck in a career with them. Believe me, you would rather them turn you down for a job because they don’t like you in the interview rather than them discovering they don’t like you after you’ve been hired. That can be painful.
Get to know the people you are interacting with. Work on making a connection by finding common interests not related to work, if possible. This includes everyone from the guard at the entrance to the administrative assistant. There is a good possibility the hourly worker who gives you a tour will be asked to give his input.
Almost every interview concludes with the interviewee being given the opportunity to ask questions. Have a list of questions relating to the job. If any of them haven’t been answered during the course of the interview, fire away. It shows interest on your part. Some good questions, if not previously answered, could include asking about work schedules, salary, vacation, insurance or tuition assistance. A question about promotion opportunities is also fair game. Remember, this being like a potential marriage, it is your opportunity to interview the company.
Thank the Interviewer
Be appreciative of being given the opportunity to interview. This is one of the little things that helps separate the potential candidates.
Those are some areas to keep in mind when preparing for an interview. It’s not all inclusive, but by following the advice, it can help make your interview process a little smoother. Part II will cover some of the common mistakes in interviewing.