Prepare for the Job
Identify Key Job Factors
In order to interview successfully, you must determine what qualities and skills the company is looking for, so that you can best prepare yourself to demonstrate these attributes. Read the job description carefully, noting the key adjectives, as well as the importance placed on the different skills. Speak to others you know at the company to learn what you can about the corporate culture and what the particular hiring manager might be looking for. Finally, spend some time thinking about what traits might be needed for success in this position. If you have some trouble, reflect on the characteristics of professionals you know who are successful in this field. Write a list of the presumed competencies and develop a story for each from your personal experience that exemplifies your possession of these qualities. Use the PAR method to help you develop succinct responses.
Put Yourself in the Interviewer’s Shoes
Most interviewers do not think of themselves as interrogators. They want to get information from you, but they have information to give you as well. But how do they know what to ask? As mentioned above, many companies have assigned relevant competencies to each position. If the interview is primarily behavioral, then the purpose of the questions will be to establish your abilities in these competencies. If you have thoroughly researched the job, then most likely many of the competencies identified are considered company success factors for the position.
We will reiterate several times in this section that the interview is not an interrogation. Think of the relationship between yourself and the interviewer as one of two professionals seeking information from each other, not as one person asking questions and the other merely answering. It should be a collaborative exchange of information.
Know Your Best Qualities
The key to marketing yourself in an interview is to know your best qualities and how they stack up against the job requirements, and then know how to sell them. Once you have developed a list of the key qualities you want to demonstrate in the interview, create an example from your personal experience that demonstrates each skill. Be prepared to discuss each example in detail.
During your resume makeover, you developed key achievement statements about your experiences. Use these statements to elaborate on your background.
Develop and Practice your Personal Statement
A personal statement is a prepared response to “tell me about yourself.” Often asked at the beginning of an interview, an insufficient answer can set a negative tone for the interview. However, a strong response will demonstrate quickly that you are confident and prepared. It is recommended that you take a holistic approach to this assignment and talk about your background in summary to totality rather than in incremental parts. For example, if you have been in marketing for 15 years, state this fact rather than start at your first job and recite 15 years worth of experience. If you were in sales, talk about how much revenue you have generated over the course of your career, rather than how much you generated at each company. The interviewer can see this specific information in your resume.
Develop a brief response, no more than 2 minutes that includes the following elements. Present them in the order that makes sense for your personal situation.
- Re-cap the high-level points that span your entire career.
- Your current employment situation (If employed, where, what is your position, and for how long).
- Three key skills or qualities you wish to highlight.
- Why you are interested in the field, company, and/or position.
- Why you are the best candidate for the position.
Sample 1: Most of my career has been focused on operational and technical leadership in domestic and international organizations ranging in scope from $4M startups to $45B Fortune 500 companies. I have led teams as small as 5 people to more than 300, comprised of individual engineers, entire executive teams, and everything in between. Along the way, I have taken multiple products, including new and disruptive technologies, from concept to commercial product, and have a track record of closing deals with companies ranging from major players such as IBM, HP, and NCR, to early-stage emerging innovators. A significant part of my accomplishments have had a “turnaround” flavor to them, but I have enjoyed and been successful at building things from the ground up as well.
Practice saying your statement to friends and ask for feedback. Keep a clock handy to ensure your response is brief. Practice until it is smooth, but not robotic.