You’ve probably heard about how many resumes are being submitted per job post – sometimes a thousand. So getting a much-coveted interview is a real coup. In order to make a great impression and get an offer you have to be well prepared.
Here are some tips to help you prepare and nail the interview:
1. Do research
Find out what you can about the broader industry. Read some articles about it. Is it a growing industry? Is it in demand? Is it new, cutting edge?
Learn what you can about the specific company. You want to know where they’ve been, who led the efforts and where they’re going. Is the company you’re interviewing with in line with the industry? Are they leading? Do they need to catch up?
Have there been major changes in the company’s direction or leadership? What are they? Who’s leading the company now? What’s their vision?
Connect what you learn to the specific position your interviewing for. How do you align with that vision? How will you support the leadership and direction? In other words, how can you help?
2. Make good use of what you learn
Maybe you’ll discuss things you learn in your research, but more likely most of your research will merely lay the groundwork for your understanding of the industry and company where you’re interviewing. This groundwork is invaluable in helping you figure out how to perform in the interview.
In any event, you want to get the facts correct so make sure your sources are reliable, write down where you find the information and take good notes on the points you want to remember. Bring your notes with you and don’t be afraid to refer to them during the conversation. Having your notes in writing helps you to be present and able to respond during the interview conversation. They also make you look serious, which you are.
Consider carefully whether to share what you learn in your research. Base your decision on whether sharing it makes you look better, stronger or smarter than not using it. Don’t use it because you’re nervous. Remember less is usually more, so sharing one great fact that you learn could be much more memorable than spewing all sorts of facts.
3. Ask great questions
Asking great questions is just as critical at demonstrating your intelligence as having answers. If you’re good at coming up with questions on your feet then you’re way ahead of most of us. But if you’re like the rest of us then you get a bit tongue-tied when you’re nervous. In this case come up with questions in advance and write them down with your other notes.
Form questions that are thoughtful, sincere and that you don’t have the answers to. Make sure your questions aren’t already answered on the company website. You want your questions to encourage revelation and sharing so make sure they’re open-ended rather than yes/no questions. You want to have a conversation so be prepared to respond and ask follow up questions. You might ask about where the company is going, what is needed to get there and how you could help.
Tailor some questions to the specific people you’ll be speaking to. For instance, ask your potential boss what they’re looking for in the new hire; ask people from outside the department their perspective on how the department could improve; and, ask potential colleagues what kind of members would round out the team.
Don’t ask about salary or benefits. Save those for when you get an offer.
4. Promote yourself
Once you’ve done all the research, synthesizing and formulating questions you’re not quite done. Now you have to prepare how to promote yourself.
You want to create a relationship with the people who are interviewing you so they’ll want to hire you and work with you. Promoting yourself is about what you say, what you do and how you look in order to accomplish this.
Prospective employers require your resume as a document of what you’ve done. It’s that experience that gets you to the interviews. But what gets you an offer is the impression you make. They’ll be figuring out what you’re going to do for them in the future. Whether you’re a good personality fit. How they think you’ll team with others. What kind of a leader you’ll be.
You demonstrate all of these by how you present yourself in the interview process. Some things you can prepare in advance (even if you don’t use them all, preparing insures you can pull them out as you need them). Others you have to pull off in the moment.
In advance give some thought to your values: such as, your work ethic, being responsible and dependable, having a positive attitude or being adaptable, loyal, a self-starter, or loving to learn. Think about any ways you’re exceptional: going above and beyond or delivering on time or early. Come up with one or two things you’d like to improve about yourself. Think of a way you failed and what you learned from it.
Give some thought to how you want to present yourself. Dress professionally. Think about how you want to be both verbally and non-verbally, consider: Smiling, being light-hearted, showing interest and curiosity about what others say, being open and approachable.
Finally – show up early, relax and enjoy yourself. With all the preparation you did in advance you should have no problem nailing this interview!