Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Prepare for an Interview in 3 Easy Steps

There are a million and one ways to prepare for an interview, but if you are short on time, then I would recommend these 3 bare minimum steps:

1.  Ask and Understand the Business.  This is assuming you have already gone through a phone screening and are scheduled for an in-person interview.  Take advantage of the fact that you now have an inside connection at the company.  You would be amazed what information you can get from a recruiter or HR person, if only you asked.  So go ahead, ask as many questions as they will allow.  Here are some questions I would recommend:
  • Who will I be interviewing with?
  • What can you tell me about their interviewing styles?
  • How would you describe the employee culture?
  • I want to make sure I understand your business.  Do you mind if I summarize what I think it is and get your feedback?
  • Who are your competitors?  And how do you differentiate yourself?
  • I want to make a great impression.  Do you have any other advice for me?
  • What is the parking situation?  Are there any special instructions?  
2.  Prepare 5-10 Mini-Stories.  These will basically be your answers to any interview question you might get.  Think about the best work you have done on the job and make sure each story is 2-3 minutes in length total and includes the following:
  • Situation - Always start with the problem or beginning state.  Perhaps you were assigned a task and only had 2 days to complete it by and on a limited budget.
  • Action - Describe what you personally did to resolve the above situation.
  • Result - Share what the end result was and if known, the ROI from your actions.
If possible, make sure you have a story for as many subjects or interview questions you anticipate they might have.  Here are some suggestions.
  • A time you demonstrated high initiative.
  • An example where you implemented a new process.
  • A situation where you dealt with a difficult personality.
  • A time where you executed a project flawlessly.
  • An example where you demonstrated leadership.
  • A situation where you adapted quickly or thrived during a change in strategic initiative.
Now you will have an arsenal of answers to choose from during your interview.  Regardless of what they ask, you should be able to use one of your prepared mini-stories and worse-case tailor it to answer their questions.  And because you will have prepared these ahead of time, it will lessen the chance you have of rambling.

3.  Create a List of Questions.  Make sure you take the time to prepare some thoughtful questions for the interviewers.  This is a two-way interview.  Make sure this is a role and a company that really fits your needs and qualifications.  Here are some ideas:
  • Is this a new role?  If it is not, then why is it vacant?
  • What actions are you looking for this person to do in the first 30 days?
  • How will you measure success in the role?  
  • What are the company's major strategic initiatives for the next 3-5 years?
  • How does this position contribute to the bigger picture?
  • Can you describe a typical work day?
  • What kind of training or on-boarding is provided?
If you do these 3 things, you should be in pretty good shape.  Make sure to Google map the location of your interview and give yourself ample time to arrive early.  I always like to engage the receptionist in conversation if possible and ask the above questions.  It will tell you a lot about a company, especially about the leadership if the receptionist is able to articulate the company's strategic goals.  It will also be telling if the person you are interviewing with knows what actions he or she is looking for in the first 30 days and if there are already metrics in place to measure success.  If these questions cannot be answered, it could have implications for the effectiveness of internal communication and collaboration.  These questions are meant to uncover what it is really like to work for a company.  Use the answers you get as clues to what it would be like to be their employee and ask yourself if you like what you are hearing.

Do you have any ideas to add?  What advice would you give job seekers when preparing for an interview?

You might also enjoy:

Salary Negotiation
How to Ask for a Raise
How to Figure Out Company Culture

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What to Do During Change

Career Blogger
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  1. Thanks for sharing via Mommy Monday :) This is super helpful!

  2. I got the best job opportunity soon after contacting ‘Office Support Recruitment Agency’ in London, and it helped shaping my career with ease.


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