by Abby Locke
How to effectively prepare for, manage and follow up an interview.
Congratulations; your hard work has paid off, and you have secured an interview. The interview is extremely critical given employers and recruiters use your presentation to make their final decision. Despite the growing discomfort in today’s job market, this remains true.
Preparing for the Interview
Enter an interview armed with a wealth of information on the company. When this is coupled with a solid understanding of how you can make a valuable contribution, you are automatically put at the front of the pack. Here are a few methods to ensure you stand out from the competition:
- Fully exhaust the Internet when researching the company’s reputation, financial status and recent developments. Reach out to your professional network for anyone who may have the inside scoop, and review annual reports and industry trade magazines to get all the facts.
- Review your resume again and familiarize yourself with the key points that you want to get across during the interview. It is very beneficial to create your mini career success stories ahead of time – make sure that you choose examples that demonstrate how your qualifications are the right fit with the company’s needs.
- Practice and rehearse your responses to standard interview questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” “Describe your top accomplishments” and “Why should we hire you?”
- Conduct a dress rehearsal to make sure that your suit or business attire fits right; check your portfolio to make sure you have additional copies of your resume, and consider doing a road trip to the interview location ahead of time to assess commuting time.
Managing the Interview Process
Throughout your face-to-face interview process, you want to make sure that you are consistently promoting yourself as the solution. Clearly define your personal brand, unique value proposition and concise success stories in the Challenge-Action-Results format. Not sure where to start? Follow the steps below.
- Limit your responses to about 2—3 minutes, and practice your presentation with a trusted colleague in order to minimize your level of nervous talk or rambling.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer’s questions, statements and comments to get a deeper understanding of the company and whether its corporate environment is the right fit for you. Remember it needs to be a two-way match.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat a question for clarity, and take your time giving the correct response.
- Make sure that you ask specific questions about the company and the position requirements before forming an opinion. Lean towards enhancing your career, not simply getting a job. Questions that you should consider include: “Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?” “How would you describe the work environment?” ”What are the growth or promotional opportunities?” and “Tell me about your experience with the company.”
- Always ask the interviewer about the next steps – you should always walk away from an interview with clear expectations.
After the Interview
It seems like a simple, common-sense gesture, but so many job seekers overlook a thank-you note or e-mail sent within 48 hours of the interview. (Only five percent of executive job candidates actually say thanks.) A highly effective thank-you note should mention highlights of the interview conversation and reiterate your interest in the position. Here are some pointers:
- Do more than say “thank you;” use the follow-up letter to address any questions that you feel you didn’t answer well during the interview. If you may have neglected mentioning any critical additional information in the interview, use the card to relay your strengths..
- Evaluate your own interview performance. Consider questions like ”What were your feelings going into the interview?” ”Were you uncomfortable during the process?” ”Was this interview easier or harder compared to your last one?” and ”What would you do differently in the next interview?”
- Keep your job search going and accept other job interviews along the way. You should never cease your job search activities until you have been offered a position and you have accepted. No matter how well the interview went, never take that as a sign to slow down your overall job search efforts.
Abby Locke is an executive career marketing strategist who partners with senior-level professionals and C-level executives to achieve personal success through cutting-edge, brand-focused career communications and innovative personal marketing/job search services.