So, you've gotten through the hurdle of securing an employer's interest with your resume, but now the real challenge begins – the interview.
While an interview is no guarantee to a job offer, your chances at it are much improved if you properly prepare for it well ahead of time. Here is information you should have on hand before stepping through the doors of any employer to create the best possible impression.
Understand the organization's mission.
When I was hiring people the first question I would ask was "What do you know about us?" If the response indicated they did not bother to spend the time to research our firm, they were a definite "Do Not Hire."
So, check out the organization's website to get a general sense of what they are about, what products/services are offered, who its audience is, where its office locations are and who the key members of management are. Importantly, look at their latest news and press releases and see if that applies to you. Perhaps they just opened a new plant and need someone who can quickly step into an HR role and staff it. For specialized industries, you may also find it helpful to scour through industry journal and newsletters. And don't forget to look them up on LinkedIn and even Facebook to get a sense of their messaging.
Reading up on the company and the latest general industry news will give you a clearer picture of issues that matter, and help you to speak "smartly." The messages and points you make during the interview will fit in line with what is relevant to the employer.
(For a great example of how powerful this small step can be, see "Quick Way to Own the Interview.")
Check out the Decision Maker and Interviewer.
You should always get as much information about the decision maker and interviewer through LinkedIn. It will tell you how long they've been there, where they came from and if you look at the groups and discussions they participate in, their areas of interest. It will also tell you if someone else had this job and whether they left or got promoted.
I know a sales guy who turned an interview with a sour hiring manager into an instant job offer by researching his background and discovering his long military career. So, when he related his own military career to his disciplined approach to sales, he built instant rapport and differentiated himself from other candidates.
Prepare supporting points to demonstrate how your experience, skills and strengths are relevant and will benefit the employer.
An interview is a chance for you to learn about the opportunity as well as for the employer to further determine if you are the best candidate for the job. Start by identifying the five top skills that are the most important to the job and then focus on how you have demonstrated them successfully in your career.
Some employers may ask for a rundown of your resume while others may poke at specific experiences on your resume and dig deeper for more information or examples to demonstrate your skills and success. Go over your resume and make sure you know what you will say about each experience to make yourself shine. Be aware of what you have written on your resume so that your talking points match up and enhance the messages you've projected from the resume. Be ready to provide case examples to help demonstrate specific points and achievements.
Be prepared with questions for the employer.
Each interview takes on a different format, but somewhere along the way an employer will likely ask if you have any questions. Even if the interview was packed with information, always have questions prepared to ask the employer that have not been touched on or that you can benefit from by having more information. Asking questions expresses to an employer that you are serious and sincerely interested in the company and position.
Asking the "right" questions can also help solidify a positive impression. For instance, if you have done the proper research on the company before the interview, you may have knowledge of developments happening at the company or within the industry that may have an impact on the job you apply for. Asking questions that express you are thinking ahead about the job and how certain developments may impact the business demonstrates to an employer that you are a "smart" candidate. You are already thinking like you belong in the position and looking ahead at how to address possible challenges. These types of questions can also help the employer see how you fit right in.
List of references.
Many employers ask candidates to complete an application form upon arrival. Applications often ask you to list references. Come prepared with two to three contacts you have recently been in contact with who are aware of your job search and who can provide positive feedback. You will need the references' business information (company, title, phone number and e-mail address).
Many employers do not resort to contacting references until they have come down to one or two candidates to choose from. Make sure you have properly obtained permission from your contacts to list their information as your reference. They should also be briefed on the position you are applying for so that they are well informed should the employer take action to contact them.
Preparing for an interview is about having the right state of mind, but there are also other common things you must have prepared that may be overlooked. Make sure you have extra copies of your resume and pen and paper to take down important notes that allow you to personalize the thank you follow-up note after the interview. For those applying for a position such as art or writing, make sure to have a portfolio of your work to leave behind or to show to the employer.
Lastly, know who you will be meeting with. In addition, account early for how to get to the address and how much time it will take you. Don't sabotage all the time and effort you put in to preparing for the interview by arriving late to an appointment. Small issues like these can make an immediate negative impression.
Don Goodman, president of Resume Writing Service – About Jobs is a nationally recognized career expert.
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