The Career Collective, a group of career coaches, resume writers and other job search professionals, are posting today about how you can prepare now for job interviews. Follow us on Twitter at #careercollective.
In my former career as an HR professional, I interviewed hundreds of people for all kinds of jobs, from electronic technician to paramedic to director of sales.
The job interview is an artificial and generally unsatisfying experience for everyone concerned. Many times the interview reveals who the best interviewers are (the people who have high social intelligence, are somewhat outgoing and who have an aptitude for sales) but not necessarily who the best people for the job are, especially if the interviewers are not well trained in interviewing or don't have a clear grasp of what they are looking for.
If you go to several job interviews, you'll notice a remarkable similarity in the questions you're asked. This is because most interviewers tend to ask the same questions they've been asking everybody for years. Even behavioral interview questions can be pretty easily predicted. A simple Internet search directs you to lists such as this one of typical interview questions to prepare for.Everyone knows there is much more to know about a person and about a company than can be revealed in a job interview. Studies show that interviewing is one of the least effective predictors of job performance, yet it remains the primary tool employers and prospective employees have to get to the job offer stage.
So how can you stand out in a job interview? Preparation is key, and you should start your preparation now, because you may not have much time between being called for an interview and showing up to one. Here are a few tips:
1. Read articles about how to conduct a job interview.
You want to understand as best you can the goals, strategies, and mindset of your interviewer before the interview. If you don't have any contacts in the organization who can share with you their insight about how interviews tend to go there, read articles such as this one about how to conduct a job interview.
2. Prepare very thoughtful questions to ask.
You wouldn't believe how many people forget to think about good questions ahead of time. A good question shows that you've given thought to what this organization is about and how you might fit in. "What are the benefits like?" is not a good question! Thoughtful questions also reflect that you've done research into the company and might include:
- How has the economic downturn affected the way you do business?
- What are your five-year sales goals?
- How would you describe the decision-making process here?
- What are the qualities that your most valuable people bring to the organization?
- Since the competition has a 68% share of the market, how does that affect your strategic plan?
Asking good questions has the side benefit of giving you key information about what it's like to work there that can't be found through online research.
3. Decide on your talking points.
Your talking points are the three or so key things you believe the interviewer must understand about you by the end of the interview. These key things of course describe what you would bring to the organization that it really, really wants.
Even if you have the worst interviewer in the world who doesn't make it easy for you to get your talking points across, make sure at the end of your time together that you spend a minute describing what you would bring to the organization that they really care about.
4. Practice your responses to the trickiest questions until they feel natural and easy.
If you've got a question you're hoping you're not asked, be sure to prepare your response to it and practice saying it out loud. Everyone's dreaded interview questions are different - examples include:
- Were you ever let go from a position?
- How much experience with ________ do you have?
- What were doing between May 2005 and August 2006?
You don't have to memorize an answer word for word, but set an intention for what you want to get across. Make it brief, don't over-explain, and move on. If you sound comfortable, the interviewer will feel comfortable. If you sound defensive, the interviewer will sense a story and will ask more follow-up questions.
5. Show your enthusiasm.
You don't have to gush if you're not the cheerleading type, but if you're interested in the job, say so, clearly and with sincerity. Don't play it cool and make the interviewer wonder after your meeting if you cared one little bit about working there. In this competitive job market, perceived enthusiasm can make you stand out.
6. Send a handwritten thank you note with a little something extra.
Receiving a note through the US mail is a rarity and stands out as something special, even though it takes you just five minutes to write.
Add a little something extra, such as a clipping of a related article, a thoughtful follow-up to something that came up in the interview or an idea that the company might consider, and you are suddenly the paragon of thoughtfulness and good manners. Even if your interviewer is under 30 and you're not sure whether they've ever sent a note in their lives, send a handwritten note.
photo by thinkpanama
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