Prepare for Your Interview – Like a Pro
Look for a win-win-win-win
The best recruiters believe that an offer of employment is supposed to produce a win-win result. We believe there are more stakeholders involved in the decision beyond the candidate and the employer, such as,
- You as a candidate need to win because you deserve an opportunity that is aligned with your goals
- Your family needs to win because they support your career path and choices
- The hiring company needs to win because they need someone with your skills and experience
- The clients of the hiring company need to win because they want to work with someone they like and adds value
Producing a win-win-win-win decision cannot happen by accident. It can only happen with a careful and purposeful dialogue which is built on mutual respect, openness, honesty and commitment to each other’s success.
So be honest about what you want and what you need. The worst case scenario is that you will not be offered an opportunity that is not good for you. And that may not be so bad anyway.
Treat your interview like dating
Interviewing is like dating; and, first interviews are like blind first dates.
Most hiring managers however are completely ignorant to the fact that the candidate is interviewing them and their company as much as they are interviewing the candidate. Just like in a first date, both sides are sizing each other up.
Unfortunately, hiring managers often continue with interrogation-style interview tactics which misrepresent the real equality of the scenario. Both sides have something to offer. Both sides need each other. Both sides will lose if it’s not the right relationship. The first interview needs to be a mutually collaborative discussion – a dialogue with open communication, honesty, transparency and mutual respect just like on a first date – whether or not an offer of employment is extended.
We should know one thing after the first date: whether or not both sides want a second date! Somewhere along this continuum of first, second and third meetings, the pattern of honest communication will develop into a mutual commitment or not. And both outcomes are good. The worst case scenario is accepting an opportunity that is not the right one.
So, whether you are going on a first date or a second date, consider a marriage or a friendship is a win for both sides either way!
Head the right direction
The most famous habit of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is, “Begin with the end in mind.”
Direction setting is critical for a business before organizational goals and objectives are proliferated through all levels of a company. Direction setting is just as critical for you as an individual and as a professional. Unfortunately, most careers are developed by accident. Determine that you will develop yours intentionally.
A quick story to emphasize the point: I met an amazing young lady named Carrie while at church camp during my senior year in high school while living in San Diego, California. Unfortunately, she lived four hours north in Pumpkin Center, a suburb of Bakersfield. The four hour trip north was nothing if I could just see her on the weekends…which I did for weeks after we met.
One Sunday night, I left late to head back to San Diego – four hours south. Two hours into my drive, I wondered why I was not seeing the lights of the Los Angeles basin. It seemed as though I had been driving long enough; but, everything was still dark. Then I saw a sign in the distance. As it got closer I noticed it said: “Fresno 9 Miles.”
I instantly realized I was heading north, not south!!! It was disheartening to suddenly realize that I would have to do a U-turn and then after almost four hours of driving, I would be back at my starting point. And then, I would have a four hour drive back to San Diego!
Careers are like that – when you suddenly realize that you have years of experience on your resume doing something you don’t want to do. That pattern traps you in a rut that makes it difficult to turn around and go backward. Professionally, you may now have to rebuild your resume with years of experience to scale up and prepare yourself for the job you really want. Unfortunately, that could take years – just like backtracking to your starting point.
Professionally speaking, it’s clearly worth the time and effort to establish a long-term direction and then cultivate knowledge, skills and experience which support growth in that direction…purposefully.
Prepare for your interview
You can find lists all over the Internet of how to prepare for your interview. Bring a portfolio with pen and paper. Research the company and their products in advance. Dress for success. Don’t be late. Blah, blah, blah. Hopefully you didn’t need to read that list.
Let’s get to a more meaningful list of things you can do to prepare. Pick the ones that are most appropriate because you’re fighting for a professional level competitive position and much more is expected of you. Things we think you should consider paying attention to as a candidate include:
- Corporate profile
- Products and services
- Market differentiation
- Industry timing and opportunity
- Leadership profiles
- Corporate culture
- And more
That’s why we send our candidates so much to review and consider in advance!
Stand out from the pack
Recruiters and hiring managers have a phrase that is repeated frequently: “The best predictor of future behavior is past performance.”
Whether you realize it or not, you’re demonstrating your future behavior now. And everybody is paying attention to what you do. You can do all the right things or all the wrong things; but, only the former are going to reinforce that you are the right candidate. Think about it.
- Would a company hire someone for a sales position if they demonstrated irritation that the interview started late or was rescheduled?
- Would a company hire someone for a customer service position if they have terrible follow-up skills during the interview process?
- Would a company hire someone for a marketing and communications position who had grammatical errors or unprofessional communication in their emails?
- Would a company hire someone for a position which requires a commitment to confidentiality if they provide examples of prior work products with proprietary information from prior employers?
These examples sound silly; but, they happen all the time. All the time!
Begin modeling now – during the interview phase – the behaviors that would be expected of you in the role to which you are applying.
Finally…be a sales person
During an interview, you are a sales person selling yourself!
- A bad sales person attempts to convince someone to buy something they don’t need just to make the sale.
- A good sales person asks questions in a consultative fashion to identify pain points and problems and then architects an approach to proposing and delivering a real solution that meets the client’s needs.
Take a page from the consultant’s playbook and ask some questions early in the interview so you understand the challenges of your client – the hiring company. My suggestion is to weave your probative questions into the ongoing dialogue early but avoid jumping into the beginning of the conversation with a bunch of questions. This way, you cultivate a healthy, balanced conversation and learn over the course of the discussion what to focus on – and avoid inadvertently selling something the client does not need!
The worst thing you can do is not ask any questions. You will appear uninformed or out-of-place, or at worst, disengaged and uninterested.
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