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Interview Preparation: All You Need to Know

Your resume and networking activities worked … you got the interview! Now is the “make or break” point of your candidacy with that employer. Whether a telephone screening call or face-to-face interview, preparation will be the key to progressing to the next round and your ultimate success.

Interview preparation is more than just donning a killer suit, arriving on time, and extending a firm handshake. If you are having limited to no success on interviews, and your job search seems to have hit a wall at this point, following are strategies and steps you should seriously consider.

Know Thy Strategy
Many job seekers don’t look at the interview process as a strategic one—where you can actually improve your chances of receiving more offers and callbacks by deploying strategies instead of just steps. These include:

  • Interviewing the employer instead of just selling yourself in an interview, (The “fit” goes both ways).
  • Structuring a solid follow-up system before the interview.
  • Practicing succinct answers to behavioral questions.
  • Responding to questions about employment gaps or reasons for leaving a job.
  • Having powerful questions ready that get you decision-making information.
  • Handling potential objections that may surface.
  • Leveraging your network for anyone that may be able to influence the decision.
  • Being persistent but not overly aggressive with follow-up communications.
  • Burning your bridges when receiving a rejection—don’t! Send them a thank you note instead.

Know Thy Audience
Research the company, its industry, and competitors. Review the job description again—thoroughly. It’s also wise to identify whom you’re speaking to on the call or in-person interview whenever possible in advance.

Know Thy Self
Get your relevant work stories and accomplishments ready—ones that clearly and succinctly convey your “fit” for the role and the company. Be prepared to backup your resume with specific examples of how you’re going to contribute and get the job done. This includes preparing for behavioral interview questions such as:

  • Why should we hire you? (Here is what I can do for you)
  • Tell me about yourself … (Don’t start with “Well...”)
  • What are your weaknesses? (Rehearse this one)
  • Tell me about a time when you … (They are looking for an example of you in action)

Know Thy Format
There are different types of interviews that include both structured and unstructured formats: behavioral, competency-based, performance-based, and group panel. The successful candidate will adapt his/her approach and strategies for each.

Know Thy Questions
Your approach and questions for an employer should differ depending on who you’re speaking to:

  • Headhunter/Staffing Agency
  • Human Resources Representative
  • Hiring Manager
  • Senior Leader/C-Level of a Company
  • Panel/Group Interview (Members are not likely to have the same interviewing style).

These different audiences will have varying perspectives and levels of understanding about the role you’re applying for. Their experience and purpose in the interview process will also differ.

Know Thy Etiquette
Please don’t underestimate this topic! Differentiation is crucial for job seekers and a mistake in etiquette could and will negatively impact your candidacy. Remember … prior to an interview, the only impression an employer has about you is from your resume—or through a networking referral. Areas to consider include:

  • When should you ask questions during an interview?
  • How much info is enough vs. too much when answering questions?
  • Is note taking OK? Shouldn’t you look at the interviewer instead?
  • How does etiquette differ with an interview panel vs. a one-on-one format?
  • Is it OK to refer to your resume when discussing your background?
  • Is it taboo to reach out to employees of the firm you’re interviewing with?

Now that you’ve read about some strategies and tips for interviewing … how prepared are you? Has it been a long time since you’ve interviewed? Are you getting first round interviews—but no call backs? Do you need help practicing your responses to behavioral or competency-based questions? If any of these apply to you, practice will certainly help. If you want to become more effective at it however­consider getting some help through an interview coaching session.

By Work Her Way Expert Betty Corrado