While your resume provides an important initial “snapshot” of you and your professional experience, the in-person interview is the first real opportunity to introduce yourself to a potential employer and “sell” your skills, personality, and ability. That’s why it’s important to prepare in advance, so you can truly put your best professional foot forward, create a memorable first impression, and demonstrate with confidence how you and your skills stand out from your competitors.
At Hockenberg Search, we have counseled hundreds of professionals as they prepare for first interviews. Follow these tried-and-true best practices as you prepare for your own interview:
- Study the company and the people who will interview you.
Do your homework by reviewing the company’s website, reading its business literature, and scanning the news headlines to see if it has recently been in the news. Determine ahead of time who will interview you and their roles in the organization and any special background about them. Before the interview, identify the two or three most pressing business challenges that the company and the individuals interviewing you are facing and the two or three problems you will likely be asked to fix for the company.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you’ve identified what the company will likely need of you in this role, write down the four or five strengths and unique qualities you would bring to the job. But don’t stop there. For every strength, jot down one or two examples of how that strength was exemplified in a particular situation.
Example: If a strength is “collaborating with complex personalities,” explain how you facilitated a meeting of attendees with very strong and differing opinions and led the group toward a successful and mutually agreeable outcome.
Then write down two or three weaknesses and consider specific situations where you have turned that weakness into a strength.
Example: “I am quiet by nature, but I have discovered that my peers are willing to come to me with concerns or problems that they wouldn’t normally voice, because they perceive me to be open-minded and nonjudgmental.”
- Show, don’t tell.
Many interviewees make the mistake of giving responses that are too long or are unfocused. Nerves sometimes play a role in this, which is why it’s a good idea to prepare your thoughts in advance. Keep in mind that responses longer than two or three minutes will surely lose the interviewer’s interest. You may even be perceived as unfocused or not confident. To avoid these pitfalls, Lou Adler, a nationally recognized executive recruiter, coaches interviewees to remember “Say a Few Words”:
S – Make an opening statement. Example: “One skill that sets me apart from my peers is my expertise in bringing complicated negotiations to successful resolution.”)
A – Amplify that statement. Example: “During the last four years, I was responsible for mediating seven rounds of negotiations between my current company’s management team and three different bargaining units, all of which settled successfully in record time.”)
F – Provide a few examples. Example: “In one round of negotiations, a superior on the organization’s Executive Team made it clear that he would not deal with the union whatsoever. In fact, he was overheard in the shop making such statements. It was my job to successfully bring the bargaining to resolution, while also carrying forth the wishes of my superior and managing damage control. I recommended a unique solution to the union chief. While this certainly required savvy negotiating skills, it also required creativity and willingness to try something ‘outside the box’ in order to bring about a mutually agreeable resolution. As a result, we were able to reach a great contract and relations with the union have never been stronger.”
W – Wrap it up.
- End the interview on a strong note.
Some interviewees make the mistake of ending a job interview on a flat note, which can be perceived by the interviewer as disinterest. Rather, end on a strong and positive note by emphasizing that you are very interested in position and that you believe you are the right person for the role. Ask questions about the position to reinforce your value and the results you’ve achieved. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer again about the skills the company is seeking, thereby giving you another opportunity to highlight some of your accomplishments in those areas. Finally, ask the interviewer what the next steps are.
- Send a thank-you note to each individual you met with.
Sending a thank-you note after your interview is not only good business etiquette. It also gives you one more opportunity to emphasize your fit for the job. Keep your note simple and sincere, and don’t be afraid to mention again how you believe your skills will help the company achieve its business goals.
Marni Hockenberg, principal of Hockenberg Search, serves as a trusted search consultant to companies who need to upgrade their talent and fill mission critical positions.
Reprinted with permission. See original article.