Every step in the job search process is aimed at obtaining interviews. It is at that point, a potential hiring manager decides if you are right for the job, and, just as important, it is your time to evaluate whether the job is right for you. Most interviews follow a predictable format, with steps that both the interviewer and applicant follow to decide if both will benefit from working together.
The best interviews are ones in which both participants are equal and can have a mutually beneficial, interactive conversation regarding the opportunity at hand.
Think of an interview as the natural extension, the successful result of your effective networking.
Many networking conversations actually become screening interviews, where influential contacts are assessing your qualifications, skill sets and experience relative to an opportunity at hand. “Perfect practice” of the basics builds the confidence necessary to perform well in formal job interviews. Let’s break down the basics into four areas…
- pre-contact preparation/ research,
- greeting and rapport,
- questions/answers, and …
- meeting closure.
Next week’s session: Thursday, April 6th: Closing The Deal I, covering interview strategies and PRE-Offer negotiation
All four stages are equally important and deserve your consideration and preparation.
The Three Phases of Every Interview
There are three things that must be discussed in every interview: First, the Candidate, a discussion usually conducted in the past tense to assess experience, knowledge, and skills… do they meet the potential employer’s REQUIREMENTS?
Second, the job itself. Beyond meeting requirements, each Candidate must be judged for their potential to meet EXPECTATIONS. As important, will the Candidate “fit in” on the team and Company culture? This discussion occurs in the future tense… very obvious transition in a “good” interview.
Last, but certainly not least, is the quality of FIT. While this is the most subjective and dysfunctional part of the process, it is where both sides must come together for a desired outcome. When both sides like and find the other to be attractive, a “right” employment opportunity can result.
This is also where the QandA can become more defensive in nature.
Research the company/position
Second level research will help you to identify attractive companies. But, this is third level (in-depth) research. Learn as much as possible about the company, the position and the individual who will be conducting the interview.
Your research goals ought to include developing information about the company’s products, people, organizational structure, successes (and failures), profits (and losses), capital spending, strategic plans, philosophy and labor climate. Showing your knowledge of some of this information can give you added credibility over other candidates interviewing for the job.
Use the following research strategies:
- FOLLOW the Company through LinkedIn. Research the company web site, looking for information relative to your function and level… a company’s financial and annual reports can provide clues to their stability and market share.
- Don’t forget directories, trade journals, the “business press,” and databases of articles and other news.
- Ask a friendly recruiter, business acquaintance or stockbroker what they know about the company… and by extension, call people with whom you have networked and ask what they know about the company and/or individual conducting the interview.
- Check with the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
- Call the company directly; request a sales brochure, annual report or other company information. Companies have to market themselves, too, you know!
Know the needs of the company
Once your basic research is complete, you must next identify how your abilities, experience and expertise can meet the needs of the interviewer, the company and the job. This point cannot be over-emphasized. It is the company’s needs that you must fill, not your own. Surprisingly, however, by meeting the company’s needs, your needs also will be met.
Your VALUE PROPOSITION
Prepare for your interviews (and networking meetings) by fully understanding the value you bring to a potential employer and hiring company. Incorporate portions of this information into your interview responses, or use some of the material in your interview closing remarks. Tell them why you are good at what you do!