Being well prepared for your job interview has never been as important as it is today. In this tight economy and job market, preparation can make all the difference between being invited for an interview and getting the job.
If you’ve made it to the interview, congratulations! Being asked to come in and speak with a prospective employer means there is something special about you and what your skills and experience can bring to the table. Your resume or job application appealed to them, but, being invited to come and spend some time essentially selling your talents to an employer does not mean you've got the gig.
The interview is your opportunity to show why you are the absolute best person to fill the position. This is your one shot to ace the interview and get the offer.
So, what can you do to up your odds of being hired?
• Learn as much as you can about the company before you go to your interview. Know their product, their culture and their market. Most importantly, know what’s important to them regarding customer service, their values, how the company is organized, and who holds leadership roles. You can find some of this information by reviewing the company’s website, a Google search (check both web results and news to see what's been going on recently), and by asking others who work there or know of them.
It also helps to know whom you are going to be speaking with during your interview. Try to learn more about that individual, too. Knowing about your interviewer's education or training or the career path they have followed allows you to make more of a connection and impression.
• Identify your skills. All of them. Think carefully about your education and all of your work experience to date. Take a moment to write down all of the roles you have played in previous jobs and duties you have carried out even if they were not a formal part of your job description. This all counts! Frequently, job duties and functions change over time, but job descriptions are seldom rewritten.
Many people hesitate to claim experience or a role such as supervisor, mentor, team leader, manager, trainer, if it was not formally delineated in their job description. But if you did it, you own it. Use it. Be sure you can describe how your education, experience, skills, and work style are a perfect fit for the job for which you are applying and be able to provide anecdotal evidence to support it.
• Identify your transferable skills and be able to relate them to the duties of the position, especially if the job you are applying for is in a new field, or has a different job title than your current job. Transferable skills are skills that you have that can be applied across job titles and organizational settings. If you have experience managing a staff, managing budgets, writing proposals, providing excellent customer service, running an office, and more, those skills can be applied to other jobs and in settings other than where you currently work.
However, the responsibility is on you to connect those dots for the interviewer. You will have to highlight those skills and demonstrate to them how you can apply those skills to achieve their goals and benefit the organization. It’s a great time to showcase all you can bring to the table, as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the job and how well you will implement the duties associated with it by utilizing your diverse abilities.
• Know yourself. Be able to quickly recall and share your work history. Remember specifics of what you did, where you did it, and be able to describe your successes and how your work added value to the organization. Your interview is your opportunity to show your talent and ‘brand’ yourself. Don't shrink away from describing your accomplishments. The prospective employer knows nothing about you other than what you share, so be able to share and apply relevant information in a way that casts a positive light and promotes the notion that hiring you is the right decision. In fact, it’s the best decision.
• Anticipate questions and practice your responses. Because you have researched the company and reviewed the job description, you have an idea of what is important to the employer as well as where the position fits within the organization. If you were the interviewer, what would be important to you and what questions would you ask of the applicant? Jot down some questions and practice your responses, each time showing the skills and abilities you bring to the job. When possible, end each response with a positive example of where you have applied a skill, benefited an organization, handled a situation, or made an important decision. Relate your experience to their needs. Connect those dots.
Never talk about how getting the job will help you (move ahead, get more education/training, become more competitive, make more money, etc); it is always about the benefit you bring to the employer. Although you are most likely applying for the job because in some way it will enhance your career and life, that’s not important to them. What’s important to them is their bottom line. They will hire you because they will realize gains by hiring you. It’s all about them. Don’t forget that.
• Have a few questions to ask of the interviewer at the end of your interview. Most interviews end with the interviewer inviting your questions. Have two or three questions prepared ahead of time that show your interest in the position and the organization. They can be simple questions such as ‘what are you looking for in the person you hire’ or ‘can you describe what a typical day might look like for someone in this position’ or ‘how will you measure success?’ They can be general or specific, but do plan to ask at least two questions. The end of your initial interview is NOT the time to ask about salary, enter into salary negotiations, or discuss benefits. Those are topics negotiated when an offer is imminent.
• Be on time for your interview! Take a test run a few days prior to your interview at the time of day you will have your interview. It will help you gauge what time you need to leave. Plan to arrive about 10 minutes early.
• Look the part. Try on what you will wear and be sure it is clean, fits well, and is appropriate. Dress to fit the organization and the job for which you are interviewing. Employers want someone who fits the company image. Err on the side of conservative.
What about the actual interview? Coming next, we'll review typical interview questions and how to use them to your advantage.
Andrea Edelman is a career consultant and life coach residing in Lewes. She can be contacted at 302-430-8002, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.edelmancareers.com.