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3 Tips to Prepare for Your Interview

One of my first mentors in the recruiting profession drummed into my head that if I did a good job in preparing my candidates for their interviews, I’d make more placements, all things being equal, than those recruiters who just winged it and let their candidates go to the interviews blindly. In this post, I’d like to offer an easy to remember, three-part structure for how to prepare yourself for an interview, to ensure you have the best shot at getting the job.

We’ve all heard the advice on how to make a successful speech: 1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them; 2) Tell them; 3) Tell them what you told them. A tweaking of this formula leads to a great mindset for preparation.

1. Understand the Position, What’s Important, and What’s Not Whether you’re interviewing with one person only, or a sequence of interviewers, it’s smart to ask each person at the beginning of your meeting what their interpretation of the job opening is, and what attributes they personally feel are most important for a candidate to succeed in the role.
You may feel that a certain project you’ve done is the coolest thing ever. Maybe it IS the coolest thing ever. But if it’s not related to what the interviewer thinks is important, you’re not likely to connect and make a good impression.
If you’re not sure how to ask that, try something along these lines: “Before I go too deeply into my background, may I please ask you to talk a bit about the position, and what attributes you personally feel the successful hire is going to have?” By doing this, you’ll discover the parts of your experience that you should focus on for that particular interviewer.

2. Understand Your Own Background, and Make the Connection to What’s Important One type of negative post-interview feedback that I often get from managers is that the candidate wasn’t able to clearly and convincingly discuss their own previous projects and work. What a shame. Could be that candidate was a great fit for the job, but they just weren’t able to articulate why.
Avoid this by reviewing your own resume before the interview. Yes, that’s right — read through your own resume, and take some time to recall each item that’s on the resume. What was this project like, and what were some of the decisions and tradeoffs that had to be made? What was that one like, what mistakes were made, and what did you learn from it?
Sometimes a friend, parent or significant other can be very helpful in this, especially if they’re not familiar with the intricacies of your work. If you can successfully explain what you do to someone who doesn’t really “get it”, then you should be fine in dealing with a knowledgeable interviewer.
As you’re explaining your background, make sure that you specifically make the connection between what you’re explaining, and what they said they were looking for (in Part 1). Don’t assume that they’ll figure it out. Help them see how your experience is the solution to their problem. If your experience is weak in a particular area, anticipate that you may have a problem, and be proactive. Show the interviewer that you understand the deficiency, and at the same time, give examples of how you could overcome it.

3. Get Feedback, and Express Interest As you wrap up with each person, ask how they feel about the fit. Too many candidates don’t do this, and as a result, by the time the interview ends, the decision has already been made. You won’t always get a straight answer, but your odds go up dramatically if you try.
If you feel it’s awkward to directly ask another human being what they think of your applicability and fit, just say it this way: “I appreciate the time you’ve spent with me. I’m definitely interested in this opportunity, and I’d like to ask you for your honest feedback. It’s OK if you don’t think I’m the right person for the job, but I’d appreciate your candid opinion as to whether you’ll be able to recommend me.” I think the important thing about this approach is to give the interviewer the opportunity to say no gracefully, if that’s what it’s going to be. Don’t corner them, but rather allow them an “out”, and you may find that you get more honest and useful feedback.
If you get their feedback, then you may have some additional work to do before you leave them. Sometimes, their objections are significant, and not able to be overcome. That’s the way it goes, and you’re not likely to get that job. However, maybe it’s just that they don’t know about a certain part of your background that you didn’t address, or maybe they misunderstood how you explained it. That’s your golden opportunity to address their concerns right there, face to face. If you’re ever going to change their mind, that is the time to do it. Not later on in a follow-up email, because by that time, their opinion is likely to have set up, like hard concrete, and won’t be changed.
There you have it. A three-part approach to maximizing your chances on your next interview. Try it the next time, and see if it doesn’t help!
Also: make sure you know how to get to where you’re going, allow extra time to get there if there is driving traffic or public transportation delays. Try to just breathe, relax, and have fun.

Phil Hurd, NCRW, CPRW, NCOPE specializes in creating high-impact personal marketing documents. Need help improving your résumé, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, or executive bio? Please book a free consultation call on my calendar to discuss your project, using this link >

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