Since a lot of what you are going to learn about a job doesn’t happen until the interview stage, and in some cases, not until you’ve been in the role a few months, how does a conscientious candidate prepare to discuss why she is particularly well-suited for the role’s challenges before the first meeting? The answer is preparation, preparation, preparation.
1. Do your homework. The more you know about the organization, the interviewers and the specific opportunity itself, the more likely you will be able to confidently address related issues that arise during the interview process on the fly. Preparation translates into confidence, which in turn translates into your relaxation. Being relaxed allows you to think more clearly, listen more effectively and respond more appropriately. Set aside an hour or so to research the organization, if you haven’t already. A good place to start is the website, especially sections dealing with the relevant department or unit. Also Google© the organization for recent news articles or press releases. The more you know about the organization, its past successes and current challenges, the more prepared you are to intelligently address related topics that may come up during the interview. These details often provide a context for examples of how your skills and experience can help the organization in an area that is in development. Moreover, your preparedness sends several important implied messages to the interviewer: “I am a careful and thoughtful professional.” “I understand what is important to you and I can help in unique ways”. “I really want the job.”
2. Know Your Background. Take the time to carefully review your own resume and actively recall each of your various job functions, titles, related training, merits earned, items of distinction and skills honed throughout your career progression. You will be asked to discuss these details during the interview in the context of how your skills and experience might be used to solve the facility’s current challenges. The time spent remembering those details, and how those skills and experiences are “transferable” to the challenges inherent in the new opportunity, are going to help you confidently communicate to the interviewer that you have a proven track record that shows you can get the job done right.
3. Review The Job Description. This is some of the best time you can spend in preparation for your interview. Within the job description are most of the key aspects of the opportunity that you need to be able to comfortably discuss within the context of your own unique skills and experience. You should be able to easily explain, using actual examples from your professional past, what skills you have mastered or achievements you have earned that show you are technically qualified for the job. Carefully reviewing the job description should also allow you to formulate appropriate questions of the interviewer, which might provide deeper insight about the role and its challenges. This information will, in turn, allow you an opportunity to address how your unique skills and experiences are “transferable” to these additional challenges.
4. Ask Your Recruiting Consultant. If you are lucky enough to be represented by a quality recruiting consultant, chances are you are not the first candidate interviewing with the panel. Your recruiting consultant may have received feedback from other candidates who have interviewed with the very same individuals that you are scheduled to meet with and know the type of questions being asked and what these individuals generally deem “important.”
5. Ask the Interviewer. Let’s assume you’ve done your pre-interview preparation. You’ve discovered what you can. Much of the rest of what you should know about the opportunity will likely be available to you during the interview process. You need only ask the right questions. Here are some simple questions that yield deep insights into the role while also giving you a great opportunity to underscore your value as a candidate:
- What characteristics must I possess to be successful in this role? The answer to this question provides an opportunity to showcase, through your use of concrete examples from your professional past, how those very characteristics were used to solve important problems, and that you have a “track record” of successfully employing those traits.
- What are the most critical responsibilities of this role? Similarly, the answer to this question will further allow you to showcase your unique experience in a manner most relevant to the job itself. While all job responsibilities are important, job descriptions can sometimes be four of five pages long and it is important to focus your time with the interviewer on what’s most important, addressing other points as time allows. Invariably, there will only be a handful of truly critical responsibilities from your supervisor’s point of view. Your job is to determine what they are and focus the discussion on those. For example, you might ask, “I have reviewed the job description in detail, and understand the general responsibilities of the role – but what would you say are the most ‘critical’ responsibilities of this role? What is most important to you?”
- What will be my biggest short term and long term challenge in this role? This question says to the interviewer that you are interested in understanding what it would take to be successful in the role and respects the employer’s need to get the “right person” for the job. The interviewer’s answer to this question will, again, likely provide you an opportunity to show how your skills and experience have been employed in the past to address comparable challenges.
Careful and diligent interview preparation will not only foster valuable insight into the role, but will result in increased confidence and a relaxed and attentive demeanor. Additionally, you will benefit from an enhanced ability to communicate a strong link between your professional experience (i.e., what you’ve done) and the role’s critical functions (i.e., what you will be doing if hired). Fail to prepare and you will be leaving it to chance. Bad move.