There are a variety of reasons people find themselves in the job market. Companies are sold. Downsizing happens. A career change may be in your future, or perhaps you just graduated from a degree program. Whatever the reason, when you are in the market for a new job, you need to prepare yourself to be the most desirable candidate interviewed.
Start with a good Resume
Let’s assume you have an excellent resume. You know it is targeted to the job or industry in question, you have scrupulously edited it for spelling, grammar, subject and verb agreement, and it looks like a model from the best resume book you’ve ever seen. Seriously, here the focus is on having an excellent interview with a hiring organization, not on constructing the perfect resume, as important as that is. So we’re going to make the assumption that you have the resume that will get you in the door. Let’s concentrate on what happens next.
Preparing for the Interview
Most people going to an appointment to be interviewed are nervous and even apprehensive. But did you know that most people doing the interviewing are also feeling that way? Not many people are skilled interviewers, but they know they will make hiring decisions based at least in part on those interviews. They don’t want to hire the wrong person. They don’t want to hire a problem, and they don’t want to be going through the time-consuming process of locating qualified candidates and interviewing them in a short period of time — because the first hiring decision they made was a flawed one. So the people sitting across the table from you are just as anxious as you are for you to be the right person to hire. Your job is to help them understand that you are that right person.
Understand the Company and Job Position Background
Most companies address work-place or job competencies when they write a position description for a job they need to fill. Competencies are the characteristics and skill-sets the ideal candidate possesses. This is great news for you, the job candidate. Carefully read the job posting, then do your homework. Is this a company just moving to a new area of the country or entering a new market segment? Is it the most established firm of its type in the state? Is it expanding, pulling in, outsourcing, downsizing, or selling off assets? It can’t be stressed enough how important it is for you to do your research and really know the background and potential future of this company. Write out several questions you want to know the answers to before you commit to putting your livelihood into the hands of that company’s management team.
Demonstrate your Company Knowledge
This kind of research does two equally important things for you as a job candidate. First, it lets you know if there is a reasonable fit between what you are looking for and what this company has to offer. It’s not likely they will change for you. You need to determine how well you fit with them.
Secondly, you need to convince your interviewers you are the candidate they seek. You do this by showing them how you can meet all their expectations as expressed in their job posting. You have the knowledge to ask intelligent questions about their business. You are aware of how the price of raw materials is squeezing their bottom line. You know about the pending labor situation in their largest plant. In other words, you convince them that you are a credible, responsible person who has taken the time to research their company because you seriously want to demonstrate your potential value to them as a new employee.
Attire – How to Dress for the Interview
Research and information gathering are extremely positive steps for you to take in preparing for your interview. But there are some pitfalls for you to avoid, too. Get a sense of how people dress at the company you will interview with. If you are interviewing for a job in the warehouse, you probably won’t wear a suit to the interview. If you are interviewing for an accounting position, you probably will. In any interview situation, you should be impeccably groomed, whatever you wear. This is not the time to make an edgy fashion statement.
You should never be late for an interview. Turn off that cell phone and pager. Bring extra copies of your resume, and bring the list of questions you wish to ask about the company and its direction. Another caution here: remember that the interviewers are looking for a solution to a problem — the right person to fill an open position. They are not primarily interested in solving your problems. A first interview is probably not the time to ask how many vacation days, sick days, and holidays you will be entitled to in your first year. Focus on how you will meet their needs instead.
Another common pitfall job candidates stumble over is not listening to the interview questions. Many, many companies use behavioral interviews today. This means that the company has identified the strengths of their perfect candidate. Then they are using questions designed to have the candidate explain how he or she demonstrates mastery of that strength. Your clues are, again, in the job description.
If the job posting says they are looking for a well-organized person who works well under pressure, they are likely to ask you a question regarding that skill set. Such a question could be, “Tell me about a time when you had to get an important assignment done under a tight deadline.” Since you’ve studied the job description or posting, you know this is a skill set that is important to them. You are prepared to answer how your past actions demonstrate your command of that skill set. Not too complicated, but very rarely done well.
Show your Interest and the Thank-You Note
At the end of the interview, it is a good idea to again express your interest in the position. This may seem obvious since you just went through the interview, but many interviewers want to hear it to be sure you are still interested in the position post-interview. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask when a decision will be made and when you may hope to hear back from the hiring organization. Always thank your interviewers for their time.
A post-interview email or note is a much appreciated touch. You probably have a primary contact at the company who set up the interview with you. Drop him or her a short, simple email or note in the next day or so. Express your thanks for the interview. In just a few sentences, reiterate your interest in the job and remind them of what you bring to the table and how you can meet their needs. Keep it short and professional and be sure to update any contact information they may not have.
The key is to make sure the hiring organization sees you as the answer to their hiring need. Think about the job from their perspective, show them what a great match you are, and tell them what you bring to the table. You’ll be surprised at how well this approach works.
Good luck in your job search.