Hopefully you are reading this because you landed a job interview. Congratulations! Now you need to make sure you don't waste this opportunity to make a great impression and get the job. You need to practice and train for the big day. If you were an athlete, you would have trainers and coaches to help you prepare for the big day and show you how to act in different situations. But as a job seeker, you don't have a coach or trainer and will need to dedicate your time to develop your interviewing skills in much the same way that an athlete would train and practice.
Think of the job interview as the championship game. All of the time and energy you poured into the searching and getting your resume and cover letter in order have gotten you to this point. You have done well so far. Now you get to have a one-on-one discussion with the potential employer and tell them why you are the best choice for their position. No matter how great your resume is, it has done its job and now it is your turn to sell yourself. You must prepare yourself or you may lose out to another candidate.
You need a job interview coach or trainer just like athletes preparing for the big game would have. In the absence of such a trainer, your job in preparing for your job interview is to come up with a way to make yourself stand out and appear confident and qualified. There is more than just giving the right answers to interview questions. For example, your interviewers will also be looking at your interpersonal skills or how well you carry yourself and interact with others. For example, do you make good eye contact or stare at the table, do you come across as friendly, do you offer a firm handshake, do you smile, do you have enthusiasm and energy in your voice when you speak?
1. Task One - Research and Learn About Your Potential Employer... Before the Interview
Being invited to meet your potential employer is a great honor - it means that you made the cut! Congratulations! Now the hard work starts. Take some time to research and learn about the company, any recent news, perhaps some of the challenges it faces in its market or with its products or services. You can learn a lot in just an hour or two using the Internet. Take notes on any important items you learn. Is there any way you might be able to use the information you learned in your interview? Do you now have any questions you would like to ask in your interview? Questions based on your research show that you took time to learn about them and can make a good impression.
If you haven't already, you will want to research the company using LinkedIn. With LinkedIn, you will be able to find information about companies, but more importantly, the people who work for them. In fact, many times you will be able to read profiles on the people who might interview you. Compare their backgrounds against yours and see what activities they have been working on recently.
When you are done with your research, evaluate all of it against your background and experience. Is there a way you can use what you have learned to present yourself in a better light or have some discussions on topics that perhaps that give you an edge. For example, if you learn they are replacing an system or changing a process similar to work you have done before, you should definitely talk about this. It could give you an edge and would be interesting conversation for the interviewers. These are the types of interesting stories or examples you can share with your interviewers. More and more companies use behavioral interviewing techniques, so it is very important that you identify and prepare lots of examples to share as you answer their job interview questions. Being prepared will help you appear confident in the actual interview.
2. Task 2 - Prepare to Tackle the Top Interview Questions
Many people panic at the thought of those tough interview questions. The questions are what people think of most when they think of interviews. Truth be told, you have no way of knowing what questions your interviewers will ask. To be prepared, you will have to make sure you know how to answer the most common interview questions so you are confident in your answers. Since behavioral interviewing is being used more often now, you will want to have lots of examples that you can talk about in the interview. Prepare to share stories about how you handled related situations or results you achieved that are relevant to the job you to which you are applying. Always try to tie your answers back to examples because many employers believe that past performance is the best indicator of future performance.
Learn the right way to answer the most common interview questions. The importance of this step cannot be overstated because taking the time to practice will help you answer the questions clearly and appear confident at the same time. You can find a list of the top resources for answers to interview questions on my site that can serve as your coach to guide you through your interview question preparations.
3. Task 3 - Develop Your "Talking Points"
By now, you should be starting to understand what your strongest assets are going into the interview. As you prepare for each interview, make sure you have about three key points to share with your interviewers that summarize why you are the best candidate for the job. Your talking points are what you want the interviewers to remember about you after you leave and they should set you apart from the other candidates, so they must be based on your personal experience and qualities, and how they are related to their needs. Remember that the best qualified candidate is not always the one that gets the job.
Memorize your talking points and learn how to emphasize them in your interview answers. If you can work each of these in several times, they should be able to associate you with them. This is similar to how political candidate continue to answer questions using prepared "talking points." Take the opportunities to present your case within answers to your interview questions. Make sure you the talking points well before you head to your interview.
4. Task 4 - Rehearse the Job Interview Before the Big Day
You need to practice the job interview ahead of time to ensure you are confident in your answers and actions. You can practice in several different ways. For example, you could practice with a friend or family member, video record yourself, sit in front of a mirror. The point is that you will only become comfortable with your responses and identify actions or habits that need addressed through practice. Learn what these items are now while you have time to correct them and make your presentation flawless. Some of the things you want to pay attention to as you practice include:
- Slouching or relaxing too much.
- Over use of hand gestures or facial expressions. These are good tools to show energy and excitement, but do not overuse them to a point where they become a distraction.
- Not making good eye contact with the interviewer(s). I have always been told to pretend there was a dot on everyone's forehead and to look at that as you speak to them.
- Nervous twitches or actions, such as shaking leg, tapping foot or pen/pencil, licking lips, scratching head, sighs or deep breaths, etc. If you have these, keep them under control and be aware of them.
- Not being able to quickly and confidently form a great response to a question. Look for long pauses before answering, saying "Um" or other delaying tactics. These are confidence killers. Create opportunities to work in your key selling points.
- Speaking too softly or, more commonly, too quickly. Find a nice volume and pace to speak so you are clearly understood.
- No enthusiasm or excitement. Avoid monotone speaking. You are talking about what you know best-you! Sell yourself to them and make them excited about what you have accomplished and what you can bring to their company. Tell interesting and exciting stories in response to their questions. Give lots of examples of similar things you have done to answer their questions.
Make Your Preparations Count
You should be proud that you got the job interview! This is a big accomplishment. Congratulations! It means that you were at the top of the list of all the applicants. Like an audition, you made the cut. Focus your attention now on preparing for your job interview so you can be the confident and strong candidate you know you are. Know how you will answer common interview questions. Have some good stories about your related work experience ready to share so you can show them that you have handled similar situations. The hard work on your resume got you this far, but now you need to focus your energy and time on preparing for the interview so you can close the deal. Make sure they can see your enthusiasm, energy, and confidence. Take the time to prepare and you will do great.