An Interview Preparation Guide
INTERVIEWING CHECK LIST
Be Prepared by Researching the Company
An interview is not a time to "wing it." Prepare as you would for any high level presentation. Find out as much as you can about the company through annual reports, newspapers, etc. This effort demonstrates your resourcefulness, sincere interest and curiosity. If possible, bring a recognisable piece of this research (ideally an annual report or sales brochure) to your meeting and make sure the interviewer sees that you have it.
Self-Assessment / Areas that Need Improvement
Know yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments. Try to get insight from people that won't pull any punches. To make you more credible, you should plan on giving the interviewer some areas that you would like to improve upon. Good ones that most interviewers won't hold against you are: time management, being too much of a perfectionist, being impatient with unmotivated employees.
Remember, your references should mirror anything you say in an interview so make sure you are both on the same page, preferably before the interview.
Know Your 3 Best Interpersonal Strengths and Your 3 Best Technical Strengths
Be prepared to discuss each for 1-2 minutes, in detail, with examples. The interpersonal examples should confirm your ability to work with others, be flexible, proactive and results oriented. The technical examples should confirm that you have above average abilities, relative to your peers, in these specific areas.
Be Well Dressed and Groomed
Being well dressed and groomed is your best and easiest opportunity to impress someone. Never dress down regardless of how casual you perceive the circumstances to be. Stick with conservative styles. If you need a job and you have to make a choice between new clothes and food, buy the clothes.
Be Early to Your Interview
What ever you do don't blow this one. If there is even a remote chance of being late, CALL TO LET YOUR RECRUITER / INTERVIEWER KNOW.
Be Involved and Curious but Don't Ramble
The most effective interviews are those where an active two-way conversation prevails. Not the typical question and answer type. Begin early in the interview to interject your own inquisitive and probing
insight. When it comes to responding to questions, make sure you monitor how much you're talking.
Remember, 1-2 minutes at a time MAX. If one person is going to talk more than the other, it should be your interviewer, NOT YOU.
Be Enthusiastic and Friendly to Everyone You Meet
First impressions, positive or negative, can dramatically affect the ultimate evaluation. Smile and say "hi" to everyone. If an interviewer is unsure about you, he or she may poll others that only shook your hand or passed you in the hall. It may not be fair, but it is a common practice.
Communicate Concisely and Listen Carefully
Thoughtful and concise communication is the key to successful interviewing. A maximum of 1-2 minutes at a time of well-prepared discussion provides insight into your intellect and supports your contentions. Remember, DON'T RAMBLE. Listen very closely and make sure that you let your interviewer finish their thought before responding. No one likes to have their words anticipated or their conversation spoken over.
Provide Examples / Details
Support statements about yourself with specific examples. These stories provide legitimacy to your claims. Without them the interviewer is less likely to accept them as valid.
Let's Face It, an Interview is a Search for Negatives
Positives are screened through your resume and are what get you in the door. Negatives are screened in the interview and usually determine who gets the job. With this in mind, try to stick to responses and opinions that are more neutral or hedged until your interviewer gives you some clues about what characteristics constitute a successful employee. If you have a tendency to do all the talking, resist it. ABSOLUTELY NO RAMBLING. A candidate that uses a rambling "shot gun" approach in presenting themselves will never get an offer no matter how golden they think their tongue is! Be Positive and Practice your responses to all the typical questions. How poised you are when you respond to these questions makes a bigger impact than what you actually say. Avoid slang and dead air fillers like "ummm" and "ahhhh."
Don't Talk Remuneration - Do Talk Remuneration
Try to avoid talking compensation until the second or third interview. Next to age, overworked screeners use salary as their number one weapon to eliminate candidates from consideration. If you must give them something give a range. If you are going through a recruiter, let them do the negotiation. If you do get pushed for specifics, give in. Better to be accommodating than difficult.
Tell Them You Want It
Make it clear that based on what you have heard so far, you would be interested in going to the next round. If things have gone well, try to close on a specific date and time for the next interview BEFORE
you leave their office. If you get the second interview set up, you may want to ask them if they would like to be notified in the event that you receive an offer from someone else. This may give you an indication of their interest level and help speed up the process at the same time. ONCE YOU GET THE 2ND INTERVIEW ESTABLISHED, LEAVE! IT IS A MISTAKE TO HANG AROUND AFTER YOU'VE GOT WHAT YOU CAME FOR.
If you think you made a wrong step, don't panic. Wait until the end of the interview and then ask your interviewer, "Are there any reservations that you have in my ability to do this job?" If there is something missing that is technical, don't argue the point. Give them a quick example of how you overcame not having certain technical skills in your previous jobs and move on. If there is an issue, chances are it will be related to their perception of your attitude, work ethic, lack of flexibility or just general personality. If you can get a candid discussion going about how you have been perceived you might be able to salvage the interview.
Calling is ALWAYS Better than Mailing
If you think you can "word-smith" your way into a job with gold embossed resumes and cover letters you spent three hours writing, you're wrong! Put together a basic chronological resume, preferably without fancy executive summaries and objectives, and get on the phone and sell yourself. Try to discipline yourself to send resumes only to companies that you have had some verbal contact with. I know you want to respond to every ad in the paper, but try to restrain yourself. Calling to confirm titles and name spelling counts, but it is better to actually get someone affiliated with the hiring process on the phone. Also, don't over analyse who you are going to call. Almost everyone you reach should be able to add some value to your search. If you are not working, ten quality over the phone presentations a day should be an achievable and productive goal. Two or three for people that are working.
Play to Win!
You have one objective in interviewing and that is to receive an offer. Don't let your guard down regardless of how informal or casual the meeting may seem. If you're not sure that the job is a fit, at least try to get to the second round of interviews. The professional contacts that you make during the process will come in handy whether you get the job or not.
Probing Questions To Ask
· What are the core values of the company? What are the company's objectives?
· What kinds of changes have taken place at the company in the last few years? Management, culture, financial, etc.?
· Do you foresee any imminent changes with the company or management that may affect this position?
· What are some fair criticisms of the company regarding; it's use of employees, general business practices, competitiveness, management, etc.?
· Why is the position available?
· What defines a successful person within your organization? Has this changed over time?
· What should be the most important objectives for the person filling this position?
· Is there a formal performance evaluation process?
· What kind of person would not be happy in this position? Company?
· What is the most common reason used for leaving your company?
· What departments or individuals will I be working with outside of my immediate group?
· How does the rest of the organisation view what this department or business group is doing? Does it fit with the company's core objectives?
· Assuming the success criteria for this position is met, what will be the opportunities for growth?
· Is there opportunity to move to other projects, business groups or divisions within the company?
· Don't be timid about asking these questions. Asking tough questions demonstrates that you are prepared, genuinely interested, and respectful of the interviewer and the interview process. Also,
it is perfectly acceptable to bring a list of questions to your interview and take notes.
Questions To Be Prepared For
Question: "Why are you leaving your current position?"
AVOID: Company lied to me about how things would be. Compensation is too low. Too much overtime, poor benefits, not enough vacation, etc. Management doesn't know what they are doing. I am not unhappy, I am just shopping the market. No promotion potential. (Avoid using the 'P' word. Better to say; "current position lacks opportunity to grow and learn professionally.")
HELPFUL: Limited opportunities to learn. Company lacks a vision of it's future. Commute is too far. Bored. Been there too long. Need new challenges. (For candidates with 4-5 years at one company)
Industry is retrenching. Remember, don't bash your current company or position. You want to be perceived as someone that makes intelligent career decisions and picks good companies to work for.
Question: "What do you like about your current position?"
AVOID: Flexible work schedule. The amount of vacation I am getting. Company benefits. The vast amount of resources available to me. Not having to deal with the nitty gritty details. Having my own office.
HELPFUL: The high level of responsibility I have been given. Continuing learning experience. The juggling of multiple projects. Visibility of the position. Caliber of people I get to work with. Complexity of work.
Question: "What do you dislike about your current position?"
AVOID: Bad manager. Too much detail. Too much overtime. My job is too unstructured and chaotic. Too many interruptions.
HELPFUL: Lack of challenge and responsibility. Pace is too slow. Not learning anything new. Company's culture is very rigid and lacks an entrepreneurial spirit.
Question: " What are your career objectives and why are you here talking to us?"
This is your opportunity to, 1) separate yourself from the crowd by demonstrating a unique connection between you and this company and it's employees, 2) demonstrate a high level of maturity and
confidence by articulating a clear vision about where you are going with your career. Why are you talking to us? "I have always respected and heard/read goods things about your products or services", "I have
known people that work or have worked for your company", "Your opportunity helps me meet some or all of my career goals". Career objectives? These days you must have functional career objectives that are not necessarily tied to specific job positions. Examples: Stronger industry knowledge, improved management skills, better business strategy understanding, enhancement of certain technical skills, etc.
Whatever you do, DON'T say you want their job. It is a dumb and flip remark.
Ideal Employee Qualities
You can't run a business if your employees are unwilling to accept change. Companies will continue to have turnover, change strategic direction, change product lines, and get in and out of different
technologies. If you can't demonstrate an ability to deal effectively with change, you won't be very happy in today's corporate climate.
NO LONE WOLVES! Just keeping your head down and doing your job is not enough these days. You must make an effort to be more involved with your colleagues. This means forcing yourself to get out of your office and interact. No one likes to be misunderstood, but if people don't get the opportunity to work with you, and thereby get to know you, it will be your own fault if you don't get their support in critical situations. There is an old saying..."MAKE FRIENDS BEFORE YOU NEED THEM".
Breadth of Skills
As organisations flatten, career growth will be found horizontally, not vertically. You must be willing to work outside of your respective niche from time-to-time to broaden your abilities. Having a specialisation is fine, but being able to help out in others areas will make you more valuable to the company and more marketable as a candidate.
Being Aware of the BIGGER Picture
Employees that understand and show an interest in the bigger picture of the business itself, as opposed to only their area of focus, aren't as likely to be blind sided by change and tend to better understand and cope with the associated turmoil.
If you think only sales people and "kiss-ups" should be concerned about presentation skills, you're WRONG. Improving your ability to give effective presentations on any subject, to small or large groups, is a skill that you must make a priority if you want to be more than just a role player.