Thoughtful Interview Preparation – Originally published in the Find Your Dream Job Newsletter, Issue 2.
Getting Your Dream Job
You’ve identified an opportunity that you are excited about and well-qualified for. You’ve polished and targeted your resume, and crafted your cover letter. Great news: You are invited for an interview! Now it is time to really gear up. Preparation is key – whether you haven’t interviewed in a decade or if you’ve had ten recent interviews.
Whether you end up in a conversational style Q&A or are engaged in a competency based (behavioral) interview approach, spend time in advance thinking about answers to some potential questions in advance so that you are prepared to answer them naturally and informatively.
Know your Audience: Research the company and the people. Read about them online, ask your recruiter to share insights into the company culture and strengths, network with current and former employees, read the bios of the people you will be meeting with and upper management. Be prepared to identify what about this company attracted you to them, show that you are someone who will be dedicated and invested in this company.
Know the Industry: Who are the company’s competitors, who are their customers and suppliers? What are the key business missions, messaging, and the recent benchmarks? What are the recent trends, challenges and opportunities in the industry? Be prepared to show your knowledge of the industry players/issues and how your experience and skill set is pertinent to the company’s business.
Know the Position: Re-read the job description and be very clear on the duties. What examples can you offer of your experience in success at accomplishing these responsibilities? What are the most relevant highlights of your track record? Be prepared to elaborate on how your experience and skill set will contribute to the company’s success.
Know your Take Away: Why are you the right person for the job? Why should they hire you instead of other candidates? How can you fit in and contribute immediately? Be prepared to communicate your take away message on why you are the right person for the job.
Here are some examples to help you in your interview preparation.
Ability and Career Initiative questions:
- How would your boss describe you?
- What is your reputation at work?
- What professional accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
- What is the most important thing you contribute to any organization?
- Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years?
- Name three things you like and dislike about your current/last position.
- Why do you want to leave/did you leave your last position?
- Why is your current organization a better place for you having worked there?
- Why would this position be a good move in your career development?
- What have you done in your current/last position to improve your company’s bottom-line?
You want to paint a picture of yourself as a qualified, capable person, ready, willing and enthusiastic about contributing to the company’s mission. If you are looking for a new position because the last/current one was negative, or if you’ve been unemployed for a while, formulate your response carefully. Never share dirty laundry and don’t waste time on negatives. Focus on the proactive and the positive aspects of your interest in the opportunity you are interviewing for and what you can bring to the table. Show career pride and initiative.
- Tell me about a situation in which you had a miscommunication with a customer/colleague/boss and how you handled it.
- Describe a time when you didn’t accomplish a professional goal and how you rectified the situation?
- What was the biggest professional challenge you faced in your last position and how did you overcome it?
- Can you describe an example of when you worked with a colleague or group to solve a problem?
You will definitely need to have real-life examples ready. Be prepared to explain how you resolved the situation favorably, what you learned, and how that experience could be applied to the work environment of your potential employer. You want to demonstrate your ability to work well with others, accomplish the mission, be accountable and proactive, and problem-solve.
Real-life Work Scenario:
You may have a real work problem laid before you, and be asked to describe how you would proceed. While this is a little harder to prepare for in advance, you should be thinking about the aspects of the role and draw from your past experience. This is similar to preparing for competency based questions.
- If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
- If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit would you be?
The interviewer is looking for a correct answer of an animal that is efficient, proactive, social, organized, and a fruit that mixes harmoniously in a fruit salad medley. Hopefully no one is ruled out because they say cat (sleeps a lot) or an avocado (doesn’t mix well in a fruit salad). Perhaps the true point is to see how you might react and if you have a sense of humor.
Gauging Interest and Engagedness:
- What did you like on our website? What attracted you to our organization?
- What questions do you have for me/about the company/role?
- How could our company do better?
There is no wrong answer to these questions except to not have an answer. This is your opportunity to find out more about the company/management culture, goals, strengths, etc. And importantly, this is your chance to show your serious intent and enthusiasm for the company. If you have no more questions, take this time to express that the conversation has touched on all the points you wanted to explore more and that you appreciate the manager’s candor and time; leave them with the impression of satisfaction as opposed to disinterest.
Formulate your responses using the STAR approach:
When formulating your response, maximize the opportunity to demonstrate your professional success. Situation. Task. Action. Results.
For example, if you are asked what you have done in your current position to improve your company’s bottom-line, “As the International Channel Manager (situation) of a company trying to gain market share in international markets (task), I spearheaded and drove an International Distributor meeting with focus sessions on marketing and sales strategies and tools, introduction to add-on products, as well as software localization and OEM technology and coordination (action). The result was 2 additional language versions of the software being produced, strengthened communications and renewed marketing and sales motivation with a 20% increase in International channel sales and a strengthened relationship with our channel partners (results).
On the humorous side, YouTube videos:
The Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRX0AQKFtwU
ABC’s The Middle Mike Heck on an interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_H-jNCaEvI
Do you have any funny interview questions or anecdotes? Please share them with us.