Congratulations. You researched the career well enough that you developed your resume to suit the job posting. You’ve crafted a winning cover letter, or at least it got you in ahead of the competition. And so far you’ve done everything right because now you’ve been invited to the interview.
Now you’re feeling the pressure of being put in the hot seat … no paper, no email, no cover letter to hide behind. Relax. Breathe in, breathe out, and remember …
You don’t need every single qualification listed on the job posting, but you do need to get busy doing some serious homework.
That is if you really do want the job.
Preparation is Essential
Having a keen interest in the job is good, and telling the interviewer that you want the job is even better. But showing you are deeply interested means going the extra mile. Research and preparation is what will take you to the next level of interviewing and leave your competition scratching their heads.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people head into interviews without having done their homework. Recently I was part of an interview panel where candidates were asked what they knew about the company and the position they were applying for.
One candidate talked about their interest in the job, while the other gave several great examples of achievements that were directly relevant to the challenges this employer was facing. It’s not hard to guess who was chosen for the next round of interviewing.
I just love the way Monster’s Senior Writer, Mark Swartz tells this story of two candidates, one who aced this question and one who clearly didn’t.
Interview Scenario 1 – In Which A Job Seeker Didn’t Research The Employer’s Needs
Interviewer: “So tell me what you know about our company.”
Job Seeker: “Well, I know that you guys are basically a large call center.”
Interviewer: “Anything else?”
Job Seeker: “Hmmm, I know you’re hiring a lot of people right now.”
Interview Scenario 2 – In Which A Job Seeker Researched The Employer’s Needs
Interviewer:“So tell me what you know about our company.”
Job Seeker: “While learning more about you I found out that you’re one of Canada’s top call center facilities. You have more than 5,000 employees because you recently bought out your major competitor.”
Interviewer: “Very good. Anything else?”
Job Seeker: “Since the merger you’ve been looking for people who can help bridge the two companies’ different operating styles. That’s where I come in. As a Call Center Manager who’s worked in both B2C and B2B environments, I’ll make sure that staff are properly trained to handle the unique challenges of both these customer categories. Would you like to hear more?
Do enough research to understand what is at the heart of this company’s hiring agenda.
#1 Dig for Answers, Explore Facts, Find Relevant Information
Start by asking yourself “What DON’T I Know About This Company?” For example:
- What’s trending about this company and the industry it’s in?
- What are the career path options in this industry for your field of expertise?
- What are the major challenges this company has overcome?
- What makes them stand out from the competition?
- What is it about their culture that makes you want to join their team?
When you show up with answers in hand, you’ll be seen as informed, creative and engaging, three qualities that spell conscientious, resourceful and someone who will get things done without being asked.
We humans love it when others demonstrate their interest in us.
Investing this effort before your interview tells that their hiring needs, and the challenges facing their company, are important to you. Point well scored. You’re now well on your way to building a relationship with your interviewer.
#2 Make it About Them.
By showing sincere interest in the company and the hiring manager, you’ve sent a strong signal to them that they matter.
Making people feel important is the single most important thing you can do to make an impression on anyone, anywhere, any time.
Demonstrate your appreciation for someone taking the time to interview you by investing your time in learning about the company and the industry you’re trying to get into
Questions to have answers to before the interview:
- What are the industry competitors doing to win customers, cut costs, or otherwise build bottom line?
- What trends are hot in this industry?
- Who is leading the industry? Why?
- What are the required skills and resources necessary for them to succeed?
- Where are the skills gaps in their current workforce?
#3 Know Thyself.
It’s time for you to highlight the added qualities that make you a bonus hire.
Think in terms of how and where your experience and talent can fit into this company, and where you see your new skills being put into action. Notice the times at work when you feel engaged and ‘in the flow’, invigorated and successful. These are clues to finding your true strengths.
In her article 4 Ways to Figure Out What You’re Good At (Not Just What You’re Passionate About), Whitney Johnson asks: What skills have helped you thrive during challenging situations?
Know what your top skills are. It is when you are using them that you are at your strongest.
Are you a strong communicator? Do you have a knack for tuning into other peoples’ thoughts or feelings? Are you someone who likes to find solutions to problems? Are you more effective when multi-tasking in numerous roles? Perhaps you’re digitally literate in an occupation or industry where this an obvious skill gap. Work with it.
Maybe you’re someone who does their best work head-down and focused, one task at a time? Some people are night owls which would be ideal for working the later shifts that others typically turn down. Maybe you have particularly deep knowledge in an industry. Whatever your strengths, weave them into solutions to the problem/s the company you’re interviewing with is trying to fix.
#4 Have Your Stories Ready
By now you’ve researched the key challenges this company faces and you’ve figured out how your top strengths make you an ideal fit for the role. Now it’s time to build stories that illustrate this, ie., situations that involved real people, places and events where you have solved problems or met goals. The key here is to make your stories relevant to the challenges of this particular employer.
To help get you started here are stories you need to have on hand when responding to such typical interview questions like “What are your top strengths?”, “What is your biggest weakness?” or “What would you do if you were put in a situation where…”
Stories you’ll want to have close at hand during your interview:
- When you solved a problem
- When you made or saved money for an employer
- When you overcame a challenging or stressful situation
- When you made a mistake and how you dealt with it
- When you provided effective leadership
- When you worked with a team
- When you changed jobs or career direction
Sharing stories about the times you did great work, overcame a significant challenge, or won over difficult people, will transform your interview from a droning Q&A to a personal and engaging conversation.
#5 – Questions to Ask the Interviewer
I couldn’t have put a better list together than these five questions that LinkedIn’s Jeff Hadin came up with, so here they are verbatim:
“What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?”
“What are the one or two things that really drive results for the company?”
“What do your employees do in their spare time?”
“How do you plan to deal with…?”
Bonus question: Is there any additional training you’d like me to have, and how can I get this underway?
More great questions to ask the interviewer
Not every job is meant to be yours and not every company will be the right fit. When you’ve researched the company and the position thoroughly, and you can actually see and feel yourself happy and thriving at work there, that’s when you’ll know it’s a job worth going the extra mile for.
PS if you’ve got some good interview stories or advice for others, please feel free to share by leaving a comment below. Thank you.
Some Additional Resources and Suggested Reading:
Top 10 Clever Google Search Tricks
Five Trends That Will Shape the Labour Market Landscape in Canada This Year
Where the Jobs Will be Through 2020 and Beyond
How to Research the Employer Before the Interview
The Five Best Questions a Job Candidate Can Ask
Barbara Ashton is President and Chief Recruiter atAshton & Associates Recruiting Inc. A senior executive search consultant with over 30 years experience helping businesses to hire outstanding employees. She is a leading social recruiter with close to 12,000 LinkedIn followers.
Ashton & Associates Recruiting … Helping you hire right. Every time.
Ashton & Associates Recruiting Inc. Placing Powerful People.
Offices in Kamloops and Kelowna serving BC industry leaders.
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