Not long ago, I asked a friend of mine who was going to an interview if he was prepared. He responded that he was just going to “wing it.” He turned a deaf ear to my urging the importance of preparation. He didn’t get the job, either.
I can’t stress the importance of interview preparation. Think of your interview as a sales pitch! In previous columns, I’ve stated that it is imperative to learn all you can about a company and its open position. The job listing has given you the basic facts, but you can use other sources. Talk to industry associates to discover the normal issues for the position type. Make friends with a number of recruiters. You can do that online in LinkedIn or during career day events. Recruiters can tell you what to expect and what type of questions you might be asked. This could make the difference between getting hired or rejected.
You need to lead the interview conversation to show that the company will benefit from hiring you. You can’t go in cold. Make an outline or jot down bullet points that emphasize your strengths. You’ve already listed them in your résumé. Think about questions that might be asked about your previous work and how you solved problems for former employers. Or, if this is your first job, explain how your strengths will benefit the company. Know ahead of time where you want your career to go and how the interviewing position will help you fulfill your goals. I can’t stress this enough.
Jot down examples of your leadership skills. Come up with numbers that will affect the interviewing company’s bottom line or overall business. You need to have anecdotes and facts that you can reinforce throughout the interview that prove you are the person they must hire.
Because you shouldn’t take notes into an interview with you, practice what you are going to say in front of a mirror or in front of family or friends. Do some role playing with one of them and ask them to try to trip you up. You need to be ready to respond quickly to anything the interviewer asks you.
Let’s face it, no matter how much you prepare, the conversation may not go as you expected. So, search for chances to weave your strengths and the benefits you will bring to the company throughout the conversation. Most of the time, your prepared materials will find its way into the conversation. Just stay in “sales mode” and remember that you are selling yourself.
Finally, present a nice appearance and interject examples of your work where applicable. Be relaxed but respectfully, and let your personality shine through. Treat the interviewer as someone you’d like to get to know, not someone to be feared. Remember, you’re there to solve a problem for him or her.
The simple fact is that things may not go your way, but by thoroughly preparing, you’ll have a much better chance than just “winging it.”
Check out this video for fun but fact-filled info on interviewing. The presenter often provides information tongue-in-cheek:
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— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.