Some simple preparation is the key
By the end of this week alone my team will have interviewed, coached and screened over 100 job seekers. This is how we spend our days – talking with job seeking professionals about how to do their best to get the job. Unless you spend 40 hours a week on this stuff, you aren’t likely to be super smooth at interviewing right off the bat. Guess what? That’s OK! If you are interviewing so much that you have the process in the bag, it might be a sign that you probably aren’t a very good employee. Think about it – buying a house, planning a wedding, making funeral arrangements – all fall into the category of “only a few times in your life” events – hopefully like looking for a job.
Now that you feel better about not being an expert interviewer, let’s explore some simple tips that I’ve gathered from my team on how to get through the process with success. Some of these hopefully seem like no brainers, but you’d be surprised at what we’ve seen.
- Investigate the company and interviewers. Research the company and the people in advance of your interview. Make sure that you can get behind the products, that you align personally with the company’s values, and you would be excited to tell your friends about your new adventure. If any of these are not true, don’t waste your time or the company’s time. Also, in preparation you’ll write down questions for the interviewers. Don’t ask questions that are answered with public knowledge. For instance – if the hiring manager’s LinkedIn Profile says she graduated from Stanford University – don’t ask – “Where did you go to school?” A better question is, “I noticed you’re a Stanford grad, what was your most memorable academic experience?”
- Know the position. In addition to knowing everything you can about the company and the interviewers you should also know how you match up to the position requirements. Read the role description thoroughly, making note of specific examples of experience you have that match with the essential requirements. Also, know where your gaps are against the position so that you can address them when they surface – don’t just pretend they aren’t there. Most of the time the hiring manager doesn’t expect a 100% overlay, but where there are gaps, your ability to address how you’ll get up to speed quickly is key.
- Prepare your references in advance. It’s a good idea to connect with the people you want to use as professional references in advance of starting your search. That way they will be prepared when the phone call comes in and they won’t be caught off guard. One of my team members had a guy hang up on her 4 times with a “not interested,” response until finally she shouted “I’m calling on a reference!” He was embarrassed and felt really bad about hanging up on her. If you want your references to stay good references, don’t put them in a position where they don’t know what’s coming. It also looks really bad if we call a reference and they don’t remember who you are…you should know that ahead of time.
- Check out your technology in advance of a Skype. Video interviews are becoming commonplace but your first impression will be irreparably damaged if you don’t know how to work your equipment or aren’t well connected for your interview. Make sure your technology will play nicely in advance of your search – just in case.
- Disable interrupters. I shouldn’t have to say this – BUT – don’t take another call during a phone interview. Don’t answer the phone – or even look at your phone – during a video or in person interview, and finally – silence your phone during all interviews. Nothing will kill the interview quicker than if you act like you have someplace better to be.
- Take it offsite. I would prefer that you not conduct an interview in your workplace. It’s better to take the call outside, but it’s a good idea to find a quiet spot without distractions. Your car or a quiet park bench might work – but a noisy street or outdoor patio with a lot of background noise will not send a positive vibe.
- Put your best communication on. The interview process is like dating. You want to dress up a bit, use your best manners, and communicate in complete sentences using proper grammar. This is not the time to demonstrate how hip you are or how trendy you can dress. You’ll get a better offer if you’re dressed to impress and speak with intelligence.
Remember, you aren’t supposed to be an interview star – you should be good – but not great – at navigating the job search process. But you CAN get help and you CAN seek advice from a coach – like us! For more ideas on improving your interview skills, visit us here!