How Do You Prepare for a VERY Important Job Interview?
By Walter Donald
August 02, 2017
“OMG I want this job.”
It’s 2AM you can’t sleep. In the morning at 10AM you have to be at your best for an important panel interview for a job you really want with an employer you really want to work with.
What will they ask you? How can you be ready? How can you let them know that this is an opportunity you really want and that you believe that you have all the qualifications that they have advertised that they “need”?
For over thirty years my colleagues and I at The Executive Network Inc. have been helping our career transition coaching clients prepare for critically important interviews.
Here is the first piece of good news for you.
The Employer wants you to succeed in your interview.
Interviews, particularly panel interviews are very expensive meetings. The employer has as much or probably more “skin in the game” than you do.
They want you to succeed, they want you to be the best candidate for the position. They want you to be happy and successful in the role. They’re not looking for the best of the worst. They’re looking for the best of the best. They’re on your side.
Rule #1 – Recognize that you both want a “WIN / WIN RESULT”
“SURVIVING THE CUT”
Several years ago, I read a short, well written book with the above title. Unfortunately, it is no longer mine to read. In the book, the author (a recruiter) said that most interviewees “cut their own throats” (figuratively of course) right in front of the interviewer(s).
Rule # 2 – Listen for the real question – Think before you answer.
REMEMBER THIS SIMPLE FORMULA: “S.E.T. / V.I.A.”
You don’t have to memorize dozens of “Great Lines” You’re not rehearsing for a movie or a stage play.
This is not “pretend“. This is easier than that because you already know your lines. You lived them. You wrote them. They’re REAL.
You are just preparing for an honest, business conversation with a group of potential colleagues about your career. You and they want the same result, for the same reasons. If you are not a great match for this job – you don’t want it. If you’re not a great match for this job – they won’t choose you.
A job interview is not a “competition”. It is a “co-operation”.
You and they are going to dialogue about your S. (Skills) your E. (Education and Experiences) and your T. (Training). S.E.T. – Get yourself SET.
Do you have the required skills, experience, education and training required in order for you to be highly successful in the role? Do you believe that you do? Before you are interviewed … interview yourself. Is this really for me?
What applicable skills do you bring? What experiences? What training? Do you see a great match? If you don’t. They won’t. So why waste your time and theirs? If you honestly do see a great match then go for it.
This part of an interview can’t be easily “managed” Most people get hired for “skills” and they either quit or get fired for “fit”. That’s right. Your AND their V. (Values), I. (Interests) and A. (Attitude) will get projected, picked up, perceived, detected and “measured” just as surely as you and they are breathing the same air. You and they “ARE” who you and they “ARE“.
Interviewers might be required to “prove” that their hiring decisions were made as objectively as possible but … it truly is “the elephant in the room.” How often have you heard? “I just had this feeling”. Uh Huh.!!!
REMEMBER – INTERVIEWS ARE A TWO-WAY STREET
“Do you have any questions?”
You are not in court. Your interviewers are not police officers, prosecutors or judges. You not only have the right to ask them questions, you and they should be well prepared for you to ask some thoughtful, serious questions.
Your questions, rather than, or in addition to, your answers, can earn you the job.
Your questions can let the employer know that you have the skills, the experience, the education and the training that they need.
Your questions can let the employer know that you have the values, the interests and the attitude that they are looking for.
Let your potential employer know at the beginning of the interview that you will probably have some questions for them.
You might decide during the interview that you either aren’t suited for the job or that you don’t want it. If so, your questions will be few won’t they?
If they don’t allow you to ask any questions or they don’t take your questions seriously what does that tell you?
Time is precious – Use your time wisely
Always ask in advance how long they anticipate that the interview could last. Divide the time allotted at least in half. That could be the maximum amount of time you will have to respond and to make your mark.
When you answer a question make sure you answer the question well and in as short a time as possible. You can always ask, “Would you like me to expand on that?”
If you are not sure what the question was or what it means ask for clarification.
“What are your weaknesses?”
Isn’t this the question everyone loves to hate? Not if you know yourself well and you know what your weaknesses really are and if you are honest.
Almost every work related “weakness” is the flip side of a strength. “I get things done quickly.” Is this the flipside of, “I can be impatient.”?
“I have been told that I am picky about details.” Is that the flipside of “I prefer to check facts carefully before I act.”
Most employers know that we all have our weaknesses. What they are looking for in a response is honesty not perfection.
Sometimes a “weakness” is in fact a strength depending on the job.
Would you believe it if you were told that my weakness is “I have been told that I am too loyal. “ or “I am told that I work too hard.”
References – You have more control than you know you have.
If you are asked who your references are, that can be a very good sign. If you are not asked – well don’t hold your breath while waiting for a job offer.
There are some trade secrets about managing references that we won’t go into much detail about here. But:
Pick your references carefully, very carefully. Make sure that anyone who is going to be a reference for you knows you and your work well.
Make sure that they have agreed to be a reference for you and let them know if and when you think that they could be contacted following an interview.
Tell them about the potential employer, about the job and about why you think that you would be a good match for the opportunity. Don’t say, “I really need your help to get this job.”
Written references are useful. They let the potential employer know whom to call for a real reference.
The sentence “Please contact us if you require a more detailed reference or have any questions.” in a letter of reference is a strobe light flashing in the night.
Most employers know that many letters of reference were written by the employee and signed by the previous employer.
Provide references when you are asked for them and not before.
When you are asked who your references are, ask the potential employer:
Would you like to speak with my most recent supervisor?
Would you like to speak with a colleague?
Would you like to speak with a client (or customer)?
Would you like more?
One bad reference might “sink” you.
One overly glowing reference might sink you.
Be a bit early.
Be appropriately dressed.
Be time conscious.
Be realistically optimistic.
Contact us if you would like to have a professional, validated assessment of your work-related behaviors, motivators and transferable skills and one or more sessions with a Career Transition Coach BEFORE you go to your important employment interview.