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Preparing for Your Job Interview

"How to Hire the Best Talent and Repel the Worst" - buildcompanies.com by Jeanne Heydecker

Whenever I am considering hiring for open positions in our organization, I become quickly frustrated by the lack of preparation of many people interviewing for positions with my company. I expect people to have some idea of who we are and what we do. Here are some tips to ensure you get a fair offer from the company you are interviewing with.

Review the Job Posting

Read through all the roles and responsibilities for the position as well as the qualifications required. Carefully evaluate your skill set and if you are not a complete 100% match, be prepared to have solid responses in order to address any concerns the hiring manager may have. For each job role or responsibility, try to have a response prepared that illustrates how you have successfully accomplished that role or responsibility. You may not need them, but if you do not have experience in a particular role or responsibility, you want to align what you have done that could transfer into that position. For example, you may not have significant direct event planning management, but you may have assisted in the process and understand the overall process. You can describe your past role, what you learned, and what you would have done differently or share other ideas you had that you were not able to execute in a past position.

Ask Questions

Thoughtful candidates will have plenty of questions for the interviewer, such as, “What is the most important activity that this person will have to complete in the first six months?”, or “How often does the technical requirements document change during the development phase?” The more questions you have regarding the job, its role and responsibilities, the better. DO NOT ask questions having to do with pay, vacations or benefits as this will make the interviewer assume that you are more interested in salary than in the job itself and most hiring managers want people who are interested in the JOB, not the salary or perks. Many hiring managers will hire someone with less experience if the person interviews well, showcasing their skill set, thought process, and industry familiarity, over a more experienced person who seems only interested in a salary bump. You want to demonstrate that you know the company, its business model and what you can do to add to the bottom line.

Manage Your Personal Brand

Not only do you want to show up for your interview about ten minutes early, well dressed, clean, and prepared, you want to do a major review across all your activities online to ensure you are showing the professional side of your life. Bear in mind that hiring managers will google your name, and if it’s a common name, they might google your email address. You’d be surprised at what comes up. There are a number of online services that can help you with this process.

Learn Everything You Can About the Company

As with personal branding, check out the company’s reputation online. Glassdoor, Indeed, and many other organizations can tell you a lot about a company. Check out their web site, and where they are on social media. Review all the team members in the company’s “About Us” section and read their public profiles on LinkedIn. Hint: do not connect to everyone you see from an organization before you interview. This can make some hiring managers uncomfortable. I don’t feel this way, but many interviewers may feel pressured to accept your contact or ignore it completely, just like someone mentioning marriage on a first date. It’s just awkward. It is a good idea to connect to someone who has or had the job you are interviewing for and asking them how they got the job, what it is like working in the organization, etc. Some connections may actively help you out by giving you tips for when you interview or other handy advice. Search for the company name to see if anything negative comes up that you may want to address during your interview.

If you know the name of the hiring manager, you may be able to put together an organizational chart of them and their team. You may find interesting nuggets of information (for example, I learned that one hiring manager I interviewed with was an avid fly fisherman. I made sure to include watercolor paintings of freshwater fish I had done as a freelance project. He definitely remembered me because of those fish and I was hired.). You may also notice during your research that all his/her team members played collegiate sports or that all his sales people are from the same demographic background. If you don’t match these preferences, odds are that you’ll have to interview extremely well to ace the interview, since you will not be deemed a “cultural fit” for that hiring manager.

During the Interview

Okay, so you prepared for the interview by cleaning up your personal profiles and researching the company. You put on your best suit that makes you feel super confident. You have a clean copy of your resume/CV. If the job requires it, you have a portfolio of work or a website to showcase your work. Use the bathroom before you get to reception to ensure you don’t have lipstick on your teeth or to straighten your tie. Also, not having to go to the bathroom while in an interview makes it slightly more bearable. Sit upright in your chair while you are waiting, and be nice to the receptionist. If he/she is not busy, you can ask her what it’s like to work at the company. Maybe get some more intel on the hiring manager. Every morsel of information can help you decide if this is the company for you. As you wait, look professional and engaged. Review your resume again, go over your planned responses to anticipated questions in your head. When the hiring manager arrives, stand up and extend your hand. Your handshake should be firm and accompanied by a confident smile.

Once seated in the interview room, pay attention to who takes what chair. If it’s a conference room and you are the first to sit, take the first chair on the opposite side facing the door, but not the head of the table. Your interviewer may take the chair at the head of the table or the seat facing you. If you are interviewing with a panel, typically the most important person you need to impress is seated in the middle. Bottom line, treat them all as if they were the decision maker. Pay attention to your body language. You want to look engaged and interested, so lean in and be attentive. Poor posture or lounging back in your chair, rocking back and forth, will all give a poor impression. The interviewers may not even know why they were not impressed. Body language is not always read consciously by most people.

After the Interview

So you think the interview went well and you are looking forward to hearing from HR with an offer. You don’t know who else they have interviewed with and how you compare. If you were listening carefully during the interview, you may have noticed when your answer may not have been the best possible response. This is the time to correct it. Follow up with a nicely written email that thanks them for their time and enabling you to learn more about the organization and address any points you may have forgotten to share or to clarify any statements that you think did not go over well with the interviewers. You might also review the key takeaways you wanted to showcase during your interview.

So HR Calls with an Offer

Interviewing is a two-way street. You are under no pressure to just accept any job offer (unless you’re unemployed and the rent is due!). The interview is just as important to you as, most likely, you want to be hired at a great company that values you and provides meaningful work for you. If you are a star player, you want work that matters. Like Steve Jobs said to John Scully, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world?” Are there any unanswered questions you need answered before you accept the position? During your research about the company did anything negative come up that you’d like answers to before you make a decision? Bottom line it for yourself: will this position create value for me as a person? Will it look good on my resume? Do I see myself still there five years from now? Only then, make your decision. Ultimately a company is looking for stable, dependable people who find meaning in their work and will spend quality time creating quality work that will create value for the company as well as challenging the employee in their career growth.

What other tips can you share about your experiences, as interviewer as well as candidate? Please share in the comments below. Good luck in your job search!


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