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The secrets to acing that next interview

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by  Ed Dunens  used under Creative Commons License

Image by Ed Dunens used under Creative Commons License

Believe it or not, getting an interview is becoming harder and harder. The last thing you want to do is waste a good opportunity, so here is what you need to know to ace the next interview. 

It's an interview not a discussion

Regardless of how casual you think the interview will be, remember that it is not a conversation. Typically it is the roadblock to getting that better job with better pay, more benefits, increased flexibility or a better location.  There is a lot riding on your performance and I want to make sure you are prepared. So remember:

An interview is never a conversation, it’s an interview.

Remember that the interviewer has a lot of pressure to find the right candidate in a very short period of time (spending only 30-60 minutes with each candidate). Remembering this already puts you ahead of the game.

Preparation is your key to success

Image by  Chris Isherwood  used under Creative Commons License

Image by Chris Isherwood used under Creative Commons License

Good methodical preparation is the only sure way of hitting a home run. Before jumping to the following steps, take the time you need to prepare. In this case preparation means:

  • Find out the history of this job / job posting. Was this job held by the same person for the last 5 years or has it been a hot seat with a new employee every 3 months?
  • Find out about the company and specifically the office you are applying to. What do they do? How many employees do they have? What makes them different? 
  • Find out about your future boss. Who is it and what kind of person are they? What does his/her command structure look like? Do you know anyone in his organization or a related organization?
  • Find out about the interviewer. Who is she/he? What is their style? etc.
  • What are the companies values? What are their corporate social responsibility commitments?

Use every resource available to you to dig and go in prepared. 

Practice, practice, practice

Image by  davejdoe  used under Creative commons license

Image by davejdoe used under Creative commons license

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is
— Yogi Berra

I can't stress this enough. Chance favours the prepared. If you really want this job, you need to practice.

The first step of preparation is knowing your CV inside out:

  1. companies you worked for
  2. dates you work at each (day, month and year)
  3. what your title was
  4. what you did there
  5. the value you delivered to the organization, clients and shareholders

Once you know the above, you need to practice how you will vocalize it. This means practicing out loud while simulating the work environment. Practice in front of a camera, so you can analyze the words you used, the flow you created and what you were communicating non verbally. It may be tough to truly and honestly analyze yourself with a critical eye, but better to do it now and fix issues before you sit in front of the interviewer.

Examples, examples, examples

A picture is worth a thousand words
— Arthur Brisbane

You should prepare to answer the standard questions of :

  • why are you leaving your current job
  • why are you the best candidate
  • how did you generate value for your last employer

Make sure you prepare clear examples to illustrate your real world reaction to these questions. A question can be asked hundreds of different ways and your formal answer needs to be customized to the question but if you prepare a handful of different examples for different situations, you'll always be able to respond properly.

Find examples for each section (work, school and personal) of your resume that highlight your contribution to a certain activity.  Try to find enough examples to illustrate your strengths, leadership skills and tailor your examples to the companies values.

Remember that often interpersonal skills are more important than technical ones so don't forget to show some examples of how you handles thorny people issues. 

Have questions ready?

Image by  Duncan Hull  used under Creative Commons License

Image by Duncan Hull used under Creative Commons License

Assuming you did everything mentioned above, you should have various questions ready to go. A candidate that doesn't have questions is usually a cause for concern to the interviewer potentially showing a lack of preparation or interest.

You may want to know why this position has been advertised 4 times in the last year. Are the candidates leaving?

You may want to know about compensation, job flexibility, etc.

Whatever it is, create a master list and then sort it by audience. 

Ask the right question to the right person

Don't ask the HR person about on the ground questions. Those are better suited to the actual boss. By tailoring your questions to the right audience, you will look much more prepared. When meeting HR, ask them all the HR questions. When meeting a manager, ask them all about the "on the ground" questions.