Most Job interviews today are situational interviews or behavioral interviews where you are asked questions that demonstrate your behavior in certain situations.
Kind of like a story problem you used to get in Math class.
Questions in a behavioral interview usually start with the phrase like…
Tell me about a time when you…
Knowing you had to ____, How would you ____?
If you were faced with “this”, what steps would you take to “That”?”
The Questions are designed to give the interview panel a glimpse of how you would behave in a given situation or under certain conditions.
I’ve been conducting allot of interviews lately and you can tell who it is that comes prepared and who is just winging it. SO, I thought Id share some steps to take to prepare for an interview.
These are not tips on how to interview, just how to prepare for one (although I will give some situational scenarios).
These steps obviously do not guarantee that you’ll get an interview but hopefully set you apart from the average joe, as someone who is committed to excellence and not just someone who is trying to “get by”.
Six Steps An Above Average Joe Takes
to prepare for a Job Interview
1) Do Your Home Work
2) Plan your Approach
4) Enjoy The Pre-Game
5) Meet and Greet – Recognize The Enemy
6) The After Party
There are several preparation points within each step so lets take a minute to unpack each one.
1) Do Your Home Work – Do research
A) Research Yourself
It is important for you to know the real reason you want the job and the only way to find this out is through a soul search of you. If you don’t understand the real reasons your applying (i.e.Money, span of control, unique opportunity, etc.), people might assume you are running from your old job instead of running to the new job and that’s not good.
B) The Industry/Company/Department
In the Maximize Excellence blog, Take charge of your career I wrote about understanding
- What you want to do
- How you want to do it and
- Where you want to do it
If you’ve determined this in your head, you will have and edge over the other candidates competing for the position.
C) Research the Panel:
These days there are often more than one person on the interview panel and it is always a good idea to know a little about each one.
If possible you can ask the HR Rep who informed you of the interview date and time, who will be on the interview panel. It’s best if you know enough to ask this question upfront when they contact you to make the appointment but they may not know that otherwise ask them if they can notify you of that information before the interview.
At a minimum you should know the Names, Titles and have at least read their bio on linked in or googled them so that you are aware of the things that they have worked on and accomplished in their career.
Knowing what they look like, where they went to school and what is important to them will give you a mental advantage in the interview and help to set you at ease.
At the end of the day you are trying to show things in common this entire process is a very personal, emotional and human process and your job in an interview is to make a positive personal connection with the panel and have them see you in the job the more you know about the panelists and can subtlety convey that you are just like them the better your chances will be to become one of them.
2) Plan your Approach
A) Trolling- Let other managers know your interested in an opportunity should one arise.
B) Kota-Anticipate the interview panel’s questions and be ready with thoughtful responses like a martial artist does with his Kota. Martial artists anticipate their opponents moves and have calculated respond to each move the opponent makes
C) Play the Movie- Stephen Covey said it best, ” Play the Movie you want to see, in your head.” By visualizing the outcome in your mind, you’ll be more likely to make it a reality.
D) Leave a Trace of Excellence
You have an exceptionally small window of time in an interview to make your mark on the panel and then it’s over. Your goal is to get to and remain at the forefront of the interviewers’ minds.
Try this little trick to make yourself remarkable in the minds of your audience, during the interview and leave a reminder or a trace of your excellence after you have left the appointment and the interview is over.
Prepare a short, yes S-H-O-R-T summary of your career highlights the more recent the better to leave with the panel as a trace reminder of the Above Average, excellent candidate that you are.
I like to send this a day or two ahead of the interview to get the panel thinking about you before hand and they can even formulate questions about it, if they choose to. They are now playing your game.
Spend some money and some time on this little portfolio. Don’t Skimp if you’re too cheep that will be the lasting impression you leave; that you’re cheep.
It will be a memento of your work product both the content and the construction
- Get a nice report cover
- Use some heavy bond paper with rounded corners so it stands out (not just the crappy copy that Average people use).
- Use a High Quality Laser Printer
You want your interview experience to remain Top Of Mind with them.
This trace of excellence is a gift you’re going to leave for each member on the panel with so that they have something to remember you by. You may not get another Chance.
D) Prepare your Answers- Have some ready answers in mind for common questions.
What is the most compelling reason you applied for this job?
What would your current boss tell me you need to improve upon?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
E) Prepare your wardrobe
Don’t dress for the Job – Dress for The panel. How you dress is a sign of respect for the Panel, the people & their position
If you really want the job no matter what job it is you have to do whatever it takes to get it. The least of which is dress for it. So, dress nice wear a suit and shine your shoes.
F) Prepare your Questions
At the end of the interview, you will likely be given an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the Job or the Company.
Decide on two or three questions ahead of time that you might have developed during your research. These questions should NOT have anything to do with benefits, paid time off, compensation, or perks of any kind. Those topics are for discussion after you receive a job offer.
Your three questions should pertain to the Job, the team, the hiring manager’s expectations for his new employee (you) etc.
It is always best to tie their answers back to a skill or experience you’ve had that shows your ability to do what they just said in there answer.
3) Practice, Practice, Practice:
How do you Practice?
Selfie: Practice the answers to your prepared questions in front of the mirror.
Role Play: I know this feels weird or awkward but it is necessary, if that’s what it takes to make you more comfortable and relaxed in the interview. Use your network to help you prepare (Family, Friends, Co-Workers, Mentor, HR Rep, previous or current managers or supervisors).
4) Enjoy The Pre-Game
One thing I love about the super bowl is the pregame. Watching the path to the championship.
The enduring grind and grit that prevailed during practices long before anyone other than the athlete’s themselves knew this was their teams year this was there year.
The great moments that led to overtime and ultimately the strong overtaking the weaker team.
Your interview is no different. You made it past the masses to just be invited to the interview. So draw strength from that.
Your interview began way before the day of the appointment.
- It started with every accomplishment in your Career and the daily grind that made it possible. So, your goal is to try to narrow all of that down to show how that entire journey prepared you for this opportunity.
- It started when you first sent your resume.
- It started with every piece of correspondence exchanged since you applied.
- It started when you pulled out of your driveway and onto the expressway.
- It started when you pulled into the parking lot and went into the building and checked in with the receptionist.
Your always on in an interview!
5) Meet and Greet – Recognizing The Enemy
“We have seen the enemy and it is us” (Oliver Hazard Perry).
All this preparation is leading to the its final culmination… The Interview. I believe that if we are not prepared for an interview we are, without a doubt, our own worst enemy.
However, because you followed the previous four steps, you will not have to face the enemy because you’ll be prepared, you’ll be more comfortable, you’ll be relaxed and that will manifest as confidence. So all the hard work is done at this point.
Your job today, is to relax. Don’t let anything get you into a snit people, traffic, or anything else.
Lay your cloths out the night before so you know where everything is and you aren’t scrambling in the morning.
Wake up well before the your appointment time allowing enough time for your commute plus 1 hour.
Eat something good for you, two hours before your interview. This way it isn’t coming back on you in your meeting when you’re trying to speak.
Fill your gas tank the night before and Drive 5 MPH under the speed limit or take a slower more relaxing (rural) route to work.
Wear a sweater or a pull-over, over your clothes so you don’t spill on your clothes. You don’t need to be stressed out from traffic or worry about spilling gasoline on your clothes. Be that person in traffic that allows the other drivers space to merge in.
When you arrive (30-45 minutes ahead ) just sit and listen to some soft relaxing music. Your going for a Zen like state here.
DO NOT PRACTICE or even think about what your going to say in the interview now. You’ve already done that. Your Prepared! Your Ready! Own it!
Leave your Cell phone, Tablet or any other device in the car (unless you need them in the interview itself).
Check in with the receptionist 10-15 minutes ahead of your appointment. Smile and treat the gatekeeper as if they were the hiring manager themselves.
T – Minus Zero… It’s Go Time!
You should have some sense of familiarity at this point because you did your research on the panel.
Introduce yourself, speak clearly, look the person you are speaking to in the eyes and smile with your eyes. This is what super models do and it helps them not to look fake.
Present the panel with a copy of the portfolio you prepared in Step 2.
Remember this is the “Trace of Excellence” you’re leaving behind for the panel to remember you by.
Do not give them your business card at this point. That is what everybody else did.
Take a deep breath and just respond to the questions from the panel.
Keep your answers short and to the point and tie it back to the original question that was asked.
It’s OK to ask them to repeat the questions if you don’t understand them or need clarification.
It is also OK to state that you don’t know something. When used correctly the phrase will probably be used often.
Your doing great I can actually visualize some of you at this point and I feel the same empowerment you will be feeling at this point. Your doing great!
A word about Salary:
Salary – The Interview is not the place to talk salary but some companies’ or managers may try to back you into this corner on this.
It’s best to deflect this question without looking like it.
One of the best ways to do this is to answer the question with a question.
I might respond to this question by asking what is the salary Range for the position? Most of the times they wont even know this.
A follow up question could be, How does that compare to the industry standard for this position?
No one wants to go on record for this answer. But if they insist on a number, I wouldn’t pinpoint a number, I would simply say.
“My research shows the salary range for this position is ___ and I’m sure we can settle on something in that range depending on the other benefits included in the company offer but I know salary wont hold us back.” This insinuates your willingness to negotiate but positions you for a good initial offer.
Do not allow Salary to be the Last Topic of Conversation
6) The After Party
The after party is a series of events that are strategically staggered to keep you top of mind with the hiring manager.
A) It Is Finished:
OK Someone finally declares the last question and you finish asking the questions you prepared in Step 2.
Thank the team for inviting you and wish them well in their search for the right candidate. Thank the team for inviting you. Wish them well in their search for the right candidate.
You stand to exit the interview and this is the time to give each panelist your business card… This is the second time you have given them something within the last ½ hour.
Ask for their Business Card if you haven’t gotten it yet.
Stop and greet the receptionist before leaving. Thank her for her help and let her know you enjoyed meeting her as well (treat her as well as anyone else on the interview panel), she probably has just as much influence.
B) The Beat Goes On:
The idea here is to keep yourself top of mind after the interview is over and the average people are waiting around to find out their fate.
Immediately after the interview, write a hand written Thank you note.
This will be the third piece of correspondence from you after the interview is over.
6-12 hours after the Interview:
Send an email to the talent acquisition team thanking them for the opportunity to interview and letting them know what went very well about the process.
12-18 hours after the Interview:
Send follow-up email to the entire panel collectively clarifying one of the answers you provided in the interview or supplying some data to back up something you stated. In God we trust all others bring data!
Mail the Thank You note to each person (Individually) on the panel US Snail Mail.
18-24 hours after the Interview:
Send an email to the receptionist reiterating how much you enjoyed meeting them and thanking them again for making the process very professional yet warm and welcoming.
24-36 hours after the interview:
Send each person on the panel (individually) a thank you note via email letting them know how impressed you are with the process and provide your information. If possible note some recent good press about the company and concur with the article.
36-72 hours after the interview:
They should receive the hand written Thank You note.
Note about “the note”: Make sure it does not say the same thing your email already said. Acknowledge the email and let them know that you just had to write a hand note to make sure they received it.
One week after the interview:
Request a connection on Linked-in with each panelist and the receptionist. By now you should have heard something. If not inquire of the receptionist as to the timing of the conclusion of the process.
If you are not selected and receive written notification (Dear John Letter).
Take the high road.
Send a follow-up email to TA and each member with your congratulations and wish them the best. Acknowledge their professionalism and let them know that your still interested if they have other needs.
30-45 days after the interview:
Follow up with the receptionist via linked-in or email wishing the successful candidate the best and letting the receptionist know that you are still interested in the company. Ask her to make you aware of any future opportunities on the horizon.
I hope you find this information useful. I’d love to hear what you do to prepare for an interview?