If you’ve got a job interview coming up—well, congratulations. There’s a lot of competition out there, so that’s no small feat. Before you put on your interview suit, there are a few things you should do to prepare:
- Google. You need to do your homework before your interview. You would be amazed at how many candidates I’ve interviewed over the years who had no clue about the company they’re visiting. Obviously you should review the company’s website itself, but don’t stop there. A corporate website is only going to tell you the good stuff. You need to find news articles and other sites that will give you a more complete picture. A couple of years ago, I was working for an airline that was the target of a hostile takeover. Since there’s only one airline based in Milwaukee, we were front-page news for weeks. Somehow, I still had candidates who had no idea what was going on. Don’t be one of those people. You’ll look like an idiot, and you may end up unemployed again because you failed to look for the warning signs.
- Get your stories ready. You know you’re perfect for the job, but the interviewer won’t know that until you can clearly show how your past experience has prepared you to succeed in this role. The best way to do that is to demonstrate specifically what you’ve done and what results you achieved. If they’re looking for someone with the ability to build rapport with clients, for example, think of specific instances in which you’ve done that. Practice succinctly saying what issue was with this particular client, what you did to improve the relationship, and the result you achieved. You’re not only showing that you have the skills to do the job, but you’re also letting them know that you understand what they’re looking for and can bring those skills. Candidates who can deliver that message in a clear, well-organized story are the ones who get the job.
- Get your questions ready. You know that part at the end where they say, “Do you have any questions for me?” That’s huge. I’ve had candidates who did an okay job in the interview itself, but their questions were so intelligent and insightful that it bumped them into the next round. On the flip side, there’s no worse way to end an interview than by saying, “No, I can’t think of any questions.” That’s short for “No, I’m not really all that interested in you or the company; I just need a paycheck.” Even if that’s true, you aren’t going to get the paycheck by saying so. The best approach is to make a list of questions before the interview, and then whip it out when they ask. That shows that you’re organized and that you care enough about the job to have come prepared. I have yet to meet a hiring manager who isn’t impressed by this move (well, there was one, but he was an idiot, and trust me when I say you don’t want to work for that guy). This list will also save you in event you interview with The Talker: the interviewer who talks the entire time and tells you everything you could possibly want to know. When he finally stops and asks if you have questions, you couldn’t possibly think of a thing, because he’s covered everything. I interviewed with that guy once—he talked at me for THREE HOURS. How could I possibly have a question that wasn’t already covered in three hours? When he finally asked if I had any questions, I pulled out my list and made a show of looking through it to make sure we’d covered everything. I still got credit for being interested and engaged and all that, but I didn’t have to think up a question (although it backfired, because he complimented me on having come prepared, and then spent another 30 minutes telling me about candidates he’d interviewed who had no questions).
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to interviewing. So few candidates really do this well that your effort will set you apart from the crowd, and that could mean the difference between an offer and a rejection letter.