by Robin Throckmorton, M.A., SPHR
The success of an interview does not rest solely on your performance in an interview but also how well prepared you are. If you are well prepared, you will present yourself in a very confident and professional manner because you will be much calmer and better organized. Plus, you will have a better chance of obtaining the necessary information to make an effective decision about the company and position.
There are three key things you can do to ensure you are sufficiently prepared for an interview:
1) Research the company and position
You need to find out as much as you can about the company, position, and even the interviewer. This information will help you appear interested and committed to the company. It will also help you identify what else you need to know in order to make a decision about this position.
To research the company, use the Internet or library to find reports, magazine articles, or even company literature. The resources that are available to help you are endless. You just have to take the time to find them. Be sure you know things like: the history of the company, who their customers are, what products or services they offer, recent news, sales, or even future plans.
To find out more about the position may require you to be creative. You may be able to find a copy an advertisement for the position. Also, you can use your network to find someone who works or has worked at the company and is familiar with the position. Anything you need to know that you don’t find, make a note of it.
Finally, find out as much as you can about the interviewer. For example: what is his/her role in the organization? What is his/her interviewing style? This will help you feel better prepared when you first meet with the interviewer.
2) Compile your list of questions
After gathering the research, you will probably identify information that you were not able to find. This is the basis for the questions you need to ask the interviewer. By preparing these questions in advance, you will have a better chance of getting all the answers you need. Plus, this will present you in a very positive manner to the company.
- What are the long-term goals for the company?
- Where do you see the company going over the next five years?
- What is the culture of this company?
- What do you like best/least about working here?
- What is the management style of the supervisor for this position?
- Who are the other individuals that I will be interacting with in this position?
- What are the most important responsibilities of the position?
- What will it take to be successful in this position?
- Why is the position vacant?
- What details can you share with me about the benefits?
3) Develop answers to their potential questions
Trying to determine what types of questions you may be asked and developing the answers in advance, may sound impossible but you would be surprised. First of all, you need to get to know your background very well, even if it stretches back a number of years. Think of your background in terms of examples. Employers are looking for examples of times when you demonstrated the behavior that they need. Therefore, when you are asked a question, try to describe a situation, what you did, and what the result was. The result is key – this is what will make you different than the other candidates.
To begin thinking of questions you may be asked, think of the 2 or 3 questions that you would rather not be asked and how would you answer those. Often times, the hardest question to answer is what are your weaknesses or areas needing improvement? The best way to answer this question is to turn the answer into a positive response by describing a quality that is related to the job but will not eliminate you from the job AND demonstrate what you are doing to improve in that area. For example, if your weakness is delegation, you may be able to share examples of what you are doing to overcome this weakness.
Below is a list of potential questions that you may be asked. In addition, there are tons of other resources out there with sample questions. PRACTICE…Use these questions to practice your responses out loud. It is easier to read a question and think how you may respond than to actually form it into a verbal response. The more you practice the more confident you will be and the better prepared you will be for any question that is asked (even if it wasn’t one that you rehearsed).
Some sample questions you may be asked:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What was your biggest accomplishment?
- Why do you want to leave your current employer?
- Why should we hire you for this position?
- If we called your supervisor, how would he/she describe your performance?
Now that you have done your research, prepared your questions, and practiced, you are almost ready. There are a few more things that you can do to ensure your interview runs smoothly. On the day of the interview (or even a few days ahead):
- Be sure you know exactly how to get to the interview and where to park. This may mean that you drive it once to be sure you won’t get lost and will arrive on time. Also, be sure you know whom to ask for when you arrive.
- Second, bring several copies of your resume. Each time you meet with a different person, offer them a clean copy of your resume and treat them as a separate interview.
- Third, take a pad of paper and pen. You won’t remember everything so don’t hesitate to take notes. If you are uncomfortable taking notes, take them the minute you get back in the car.
- Last, evaluate how you look. Although we would like to believe that appearance means nothing, it does create that first impression. Dress professionally (i.e. a business suit) unless told otherwise. Be sure you are wearing a smile including your attitude (no matter how bad traffic was on the way there). Present yourself with a firm handshake. Let the interviewer sit first. Be aware of your non-verbals (i.e. tapping fingers, flipping hair, looking off in space). Although these things don’t appear job related, they do create that first impression in the interviewer’s mind.
If you follow the tips in this article, you should be well prepared for your interview. Just go into the interview and be yourself. Your preparation will make you appear as a natural. Plus, by preparing and being yourself, you are giving it your best shot. If it was meant to be, it will be. If not, you would not have been happy there anyway.
Prepare, smile, and be yourself…
Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant is President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have any questions or wish to share your comments with Robin, you can contact her at Robin@strategicHRinc.com.