A client recently approached me to help her prepare for an interview with an organization that she had been trying to get into for the past six months. She was very concerned that she perform well because she knew she wouldn’t get another chance…and rightly so.
In today’s job market, it is so difficult to land an interview that you need to make sure you do a good job. As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Here are some good tips. Study the job description carefully and identify the four or five most important criteria. What skills do they need the most?
For each of the criteria that you have defined, write a couple of sentences that indicate how you fulfill that requirement. Describe one or two achievements that most illustrate your ability to carry out that function. Be sure to write complete sentences, not just notes. This way you will be comfortable speaking in full sentences during the interview. Make your statements concise and be sure to highlight the positive results of your actions.
Don’t take these notes into the interview but practice reading them, keeping in mind that you need to stop when you reach the end of your answer. I emphasize this because it will help prevent you from rambling which is one of the most common interview mistakes. You will want to deliver the information and stop. It will then be up to the interviewer to move on to the next topic or ask follow-up questions. Select accomplishments that are among your most significant, ones of which you are proud. However, be sure to use examples that are most relevant to the specific position.
Remember that this is not about what you want; it’s all about what they need. Refrain from bringing up experiences that are not germane. This will only cloud the issue with extraneous information.
If you have properly prepared this framework, you can use the information to respond to a variety of questions. For example, if you are asked, “Tell me about yourself,” the interviewer does not want to hear you recount your life history or even your professional history from the beginning to the present. By the time you get to the most recent / most relevant information, you may have lost their attention. Tell them the aspects about yourself that show them you will do their job successfully.
If you are asked, “Why should we hire you,” this is another ideal time to respond with the key points in your framework. If you are asked to describe your strengths, make sure they correlate directly with these same points.
Throughout the interview, show enthusiasm for the job and the company even if you aren’t sure you will accept an offer. At the conclusion, be sure to thank them and let them know you are interested. If the information is not provided, ask them to tell you what the next steps in the decision process will be and when you should expect to hear back. Also, ask for business cards so that you can write a thank you letter as soon as possible after the interview, preferably the same day and by email so that they receive it immediately.
(Please email me for a free copy of my Interview Prep Guide)