Prepare Prepare Prepare to Interview Your Best

August 27, 2010

The key is not the will to win…..everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.
Bobby Knight, Texas Tech Men’s Basketball Coach

Research on interviewing behaviors shows that 78% of all people that interview do no preparation and just “wing” the interview. People applying for lower level positions do not think they need to prepare while people applying for upper level positions think they know all they need to know about the industry, trends, the position etc. As a result, most job candidates appear unmotivated, disinterested and are unable to clearly state how their background, skills, and experience match the job requirements.

Comprehensive preparation covers two topic areas 1- The company in context of the industry and 2- the specific position.

Researching the company has become far easier with all the information one can find on the Internet. The obvious place to start is the company’s web site which will provide the company’s view of itself (hint- read press releases they typically contain the latest information the company wants you to know). It is equally important to read news articles, industry magazines, and other sources of independent information. You can even go to to read what ex-employees say about the company. The information you learn about the industry and the company are particularly important as you formulate questions to ask the interviewer. The questions you ask should display a keen knowledge of the company and the industry.

Finding good, solid, helpful information about the position itself is more difficult. Typically, job requirements are poorly defined and include nebulous statements such as “good communication skills” or “team player” or “able to work independently”. The best job requirements are specific task or experience based statements that enable a candidate to specifically match their background and skills to the requirements. For example, “Ability to use XYZ computer program to develop direct mail marketing materials” or “5 years experience applying federal regulatory requirements in the pharmaceutical industry.” These requirements are specific and a candidate can state definitively how they have acquired the skills or experience required to do the task.

Other entries in this blog detail how an interview is a sales call. As a salesperson, it is incumbent upon the candidate during interview preparation to uncover the position requirements. Like any salesperson, candidates should be asking good probing questions to learn the requirements. Possible questions include:

  • What are three or four “must have” qualifications for a person to be selected for this position?
  • What criteria will you use to make your hiring decision?
  • What skill sets are required to be successful in this position
  • What are the most important personal characteristics for a person in this position?
  • What are the major responsibilities of this position?
  • What is the highest priority for the person in this position?
  • What are the important issues that need to be addressed immediately?
  • What does a typical day look like for a person in this position?
  • These questions should be asked as part of the interview preparation not at the end of the interview. The answers to these questions will enable a candidate to prepare the content they want to present during the interview. By the way, just asking these questions often impresses interviewers or internal HR recruiters. In addition, if a candidate is working with an external recruiter the recruiter should have the answers to these questions.

    The answers to these questions are best provided by the hiring manager, however other interviewers, the job posting, the HR recruiter, external recruiter, company employees, and information on the company web site are also valuable sources of information.

    Here is a radical idea – prior to the interview call the hiring manager and say this, “I am preparing for our interview next week and I would like to ask you a couple of questions about the position so I can be well prepared for the interview. Do you have a few minutes to discuss the position?” What hiring manager would not be impressed and willing to spend the time to help a motivated and interested candidate?

    In a recent discussion with a fellow psychologist, he stated the fear of rejection results in job candidates not fully committing to the interview and a symptom of not committing is not preparing. He stated, if a candidate does not prepare and they don’t get the job they can rationalize it by saying they were really not interested and if they had been they would have put more time into preparing. The fear of rejection lives in all of us, for some more strongly than others. Do not let fear of rejection get in the way of preparing for an interview.

    Present to Win

    Prepare an Interview Presentation and be Prepared to Interview


    Get Past the Same Old Same Old to Interview Your Best

    August 13, 2010

    Old Time

    If you read, as I do, all the information that is written about job interviews you will quickly learn that it is mostly repetitive old information that is simply repeated over and over again. Here are the typical worn out topics:

  • How to dress
  • How to shake hands
  • Be on time
  • Don’t be negative
  • Prepare
  • Thank You Letters
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Answering questions
  • Smile
  • Type of interview
  • Granted all important issues, but come on how are you learning to differentiate yourself in a competitive market  by reading the same old same old interview tips.

    Here are some new thoughts and strategies that you can use to differentiate yourself;

    Sell It

    Stop reading interview tips begin reading sales tips

    An interview is a sales call and you are in the interview to sell your services to an employer. Don’t like selling, scared of selling, not a salesperson; skip the interview.  Put on a sales hat and prepare to powerfully sell yourself. Use a “consultative” sales model to shape your interview preparation.


    Present to Win

    Learn how to present

    In today’s knowledge economy, presenting information clearly and succinctly is an important job and interview skill. Read information about how to present successfully to audiences. Prepare an interview presentation to take to your interview. Using a presentation in an interview will support your sales approach and will certainly differentiate yourself from other candidates.

    Brand You

    Brand You

    Know your personal brand

    Tell me about yourself is a tough question unless you know your brand and how you want to present yourself. Don’t think you have a personal brand; think again you have one you just have not been managing it. Read information about personal branding, establish your brand and then communicate that brand to the interviewer(s).

    What's The Problem

    Know specifically what problem(s) you are being hired to solve
    Don’t think job description, think problem solving. Everyone that is hired is hired to solve a problem just as everything that is purchased is purchased to solve a problem. Figure out the problem rather than thinking you are just being hired to perform a job. Once you know the problem address clearly how you will solve the problem.

    Here are the Benefits

    Talk benefits not just features

    Every good sales person focuses on the benefits their product or service will provide rather than just features. Focus on the benefits you will provide to the company. Ten years of experience (feature) what does that bring the company? Expertise in a computer program (feature) how will that benefit the company?

    Follow Through Close the sale

    Forget thank you and follow through instead

    Sales people do not send Thank-You Letters they send Follow-Through Letters that continues the sales process. Send a letter and write about how you will solve the company’s problems, how you will benefit the company and why you are the best choice.

    Its a new world and it requires a new way of thinking. Use the above topic areas to substantially differentiate yourself from other candidates. Consider, they are reading the same old same old, preparing in the same old same old way, and interviewing using the same old same old style. You have the advantage.

    Present to Win