We have finally gotten down to my tenth pet peeve of 2010 – and I hope to God that this trend decreases as job seekers get more sophisticated in their approach to landing a new job.
One can never be 100% prepared for an interview – and over-preparedness makes you seem fake. Your answers to questions seem canned and nobody wants to work with someone who isn’t a real person. My suggestion is to control what you can control.
Read about the company – especially their vision and mission statement so if you are asked “Why us?” – you are able to give a relevant answer pin pointing how your personal vision and values align with that company’s.
Do research on those you will be meeting with. Executive Bios are typically on corporate websites if you know where to look, and if the information isn’t transparent from the website, do a little digging on Linked In with a Company and Name search (there is a search box on the top right corner of your Linked In home page – click on the magnifying glass to the right of that to open an advanced search field where you can type in names of people and company names – you may even locate the Corporate Linked In page which should have links to all employees that you can search through). Who knows – you may uncover that the COO was a Boy Scout too…then you’re a shoe in (wink, wink).
“But, how will I know who I am meeting with?” You may ask. To which I would promptly reply, “Did you ask?”
When setting up an interview, it is entirely acceptable to ask the names, even titles of all those you are expecting to meet. Find out who they are, know their role within the company, and try to be as relevant to THEM (based on that information) as possible during the interview.
You can also prepare for an interview by re-reading the job description. Extrapolate any hints that may lie within a cleverly crafted JD that may provide you with insight into the reason for the need (is it a special project, and is the goal of that project listed – if not, great question to ask…), the accountabilities for the person, or even who this role will report to.
KNOW the business model of the company you are interviewing with. Know the product they make or sell. Know who they sell it to. Know the markets they operate in, and be familiar with the challenges they may be facing in the economy right now.
Too often, people sit before me in an interview, and rather than using the time to convince me to hire them, they make me talk about who we are, and what we do. They ask me questions like, “How many employees do you have?” or “How long have you guys been in business?” or even better, “What is your role within the company?” Ummm…well, I have a Facebook page, a pretty obvious Linked Profile WITH a photo, and I blog regularly – shouldn’t you have done some homework? I at least had to read your resume! This is not some attempt to be narcissistic and expect everyone to know who I am – believe me. You have a block of time in an interview. Do you want to use it to get yourself a job, or to find out about me what you could have found yourself in about 5 minutes of time prior to this meeting. That’s my point. Give yourself the benefit of spending as much time with hiring personnel as possible, talking about how and why you are right for the job.
A prepared interviewer should also ask some key questions at the close of the first meeting.
1) “After having the opportunity to meet me, and to learn more about my skills and experience, are there any reasons you feel I wouldn’t be the best fit for the job?”
Puts me on the spot…but it’s OK. I will answer truthfully. I will tell you what I like, and what concerns me. Whatever the answer is, it shows confidence and the ability to be realistic, self-aware and accountable. It also affords you the luxury of having a window into your chances of getting called back for another round.
2) “What is the interview process? What can I expect in terms of next steps or follow up?”
There will always be anxiety that comes along with the waiting after an interview. I’ve often described it as the same anxiety a woman faces waiting for a guy to call after a first date. Wouldn’t it be nice if at the end of that first date, we could ask “So, should I expect a call within a day, a week? What is your time-line for a second date?” without sounding like a complete psycho? At least this question is appropriate in this circumstance, and it allows you to gain some information so your expectations are realistic.
Finally, remember names on the way out. Shake everyone’s hand, and make eye contact as you say your good- byes. Send a Thank You Email for the time and opportunity, and then jump right back onto your go-to job board and fill your funnel. What you can control is the impression that you make – so make it deliberate, confident, grounded, accountable and friendly.