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 www.vault.com 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:
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.