I finished preparing my son for an important interview. He packed his backpack, checked his suit and took a quick look in the mirror on the way out the door.
“Have fun!” I called to him.
He looked at me confused and said, “What’s fun about an interview?”
There are numerous things about job searches that are stressful. The thought of having to find a new job can be overwhelming. Just think of the steps you take to find a job: polish your resume, find positions, apply for them, interview, etc. Most of the activities are done outside the view of others but not the interview.
Once you have an interview, it is “Game on!” and you have to perform. You may really want or need the job so someone sitting in judgment of you can be terrifying. You are probably thinking, “What are they looking for? What will they ask? Do my skills fit the job? Can I answer the questions? Will they like me? Will they offer me a job?”
This is about the lowest control position you can be in, or is it?
Your success in an interview is not uncontrollable. Preparation will even the odds or may even tip them in your favor. So, let’s talk about the right preparations to be ready for an interview.
- Identify positions that are appropriate for you
- Research the company’s websites, testimonials and job boards
- Research online for commonly asked questions
- Know your story and learn how to apply it to common questions (Practice! Practice! Practice!)
- Write down questions you can ask the interviewer
Identify positions that are right for you
These are the jobs where your skills match the job description and you have an interest. Use key words to find those jobs.
Research the company’s websites, testimonials and job boards
You cannot be prepared enough so learn as much as you can. Companies are very clear on their websites about what is important to them. Look past the career section, look at what they are featuring on their home page, they could have two or three major initiatives. Do not dismiss social responsibility as one of them. They may openly talk about how much they are giving back to the community. If it is on their home page, it is important.
Research online for commonly asked questions
While you cannot know the exact interview questions, preparation is key. There are thousands of interview questions online so you can get an idea of what will be asked. Check job sites like Indeed, Ladders, Monster, or Glassdoor to get an idea of common interview questions. Previous interviewees may have left clues for you.
Most questions fall into these categories:
- Innovation/Problem Solving
- Technical knowledge
Of course, knowing the questions is not enough; knowing how to answer them is what matters. During interviews, I never worried if the candidate knew the questions in advance. I probed past the cover answer to get to their understanding. I was interested in their thought process, and I probed until I understood it.
Know your story
Since you researched the questions online and have an idea of what they might ask, both technical and non-technical, you need to have some answers/stories prepared in advance. Reach into your past and understand how your past experiences meet the needs of the employer. You will need 4 or 5 stories that will cover their questions.
Once you have decided on your stories practice putting them in a STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. Answers in this format are the easiest to follow. What is the Situation, what Task did you have to accomplish, what Actions did you take and what was the Result? If you answer in that format it is easy to follow and your interviewer will understand your answer.
Interviewers want to know about your thought process and how you make decisions. The Situation, Task and Result sections should be short and precise. Your Action section should be fuller, you should discuss 3 to 5 steps you took to solve the problem, any less and they will ask for more information.
The more you practice, the more confident you will sound. Do not just practice once or twice. Keep practicing over and over until the answers roll off your tongue. Practice with someone who will tell you if you are clear. This is an interview and should be taken seriously. Do not go in cold. This is an opportunity to land a new job or grow your career.
Write down questions that you can ask the interviewer
You do not have to ask the interviewer anything. Depending on your interaction with the company you may already know everything you need to know. But if you ask questions, the interviewer knows that you are really interested and that you want current information.
Here is an easy one for you: What are the next steps in the process?
Do not wait for the interview to think about what to ask the interviewer. Do not ask questions that are easily found on the website. Ask about things that you cannot know. What has the interviewer’s experience been like at the company? What do they like about it? What is the culture? Etc.
If you are prepared for the interview and have prepared in advance, you have evened up the odds and are no longer at a disadvantage. You are prepared with your answers and questions. The interview will go well.
When I asked my son how the interview went, without hesitation he said, “It went great! I had fun.”
Lindsey Levine was in the corporate world for 30 years in a Sales Management Position where one of his key responsibilities was hiring. He transitioned to his new career and is the principal of Lindsey Levine Resume and Interviewing Preparation.