Does this scenario sound familiar? You landed the interview for what you think might be your next big position. This could even be your dream job. They must have liked your resume, although you wrote it so long ago, you don’t even remember what all those bullet points say. Then, you remember how uncomfortable an interview can be, and you start feeling nervous.
You aren’t sure what to do next, so you plan to do a little research on the company. But instead, you are consumed with the day-to-day projects of your current job. You figure you’ll have time right before the interview to view the company’s website and come up with a few intelligent questions to ask. As the interview date gets closer, you call your friends and contacts for advice and insight. You begin to think about how to make the best impression. Your focus shifts to what you should wear rather than actually preparing for the interview.
When you finally walk into interview, you feel flustered and unprepared to present yourself in the best light.
What you needed was a plan.
To be fair, most people don’t know how to prepare for an interview. Next to public speaking, interviewing is one of the most dreaded social interactions people face. That dread will cause you to focus on how to deal with disappointment, rather than how to confidently walk into an interview with clarity on what you want from the conversation.
Interviewing well takes preparation. You have to put in time to research and prepare so that you can walk in confident in your abilities and clear about what you want from a potential employer. Here are five steps to prepare you for a successful interview:
1. Define Your Priorities
Why do you want this position? What do you care about deeply? What does the job need to include for you to feel like taking this position is the next best step in your career?
What is your priority?
- Work Environment?
- More Responsibility?
- A Better Title?
- A Good Boss?
- An Office?
There is no right or wrong answer; there are only your priorities. When you know what you want, you can be clear about why you are interviewing, which will be of keen interest to the people who interview you.
2. Know Your Value
Take out a pen and paper and answer these questions:
- What is your profession?
- What are your top 25 skills and talents?
- Why are these valuable?
- How did you develop your expertise?
- How do your skills and expertise make you qualified for this position?
- What appeals to you about this position?
- What is important to you in your career?
- What brings out your best work?
These questions are designed to help you understand how your strengths will be of value to your potential employer. And mostly importantly, they build your confidence. Be thorough and think through your answers. Nothing is too trivial. Your goal is to have tools to create common ground with the interviewers and the organization.
3. Do Your Homework
- What is the culture of your potential employer?
- What are the job requirements?
- Who would be your new boss?
- What do they believe in?
- What is their management style?
To answer these questions, you can research companies on the web via sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. Ask people in your network who know other people who work for the organization. You can also consult your alumni association to see if other alums work for that organization.
But first and foremost, you need to carefully read the job description. Is this work that you honestly want to do?
Once you have your answers, think about how they resonate with you.
- Where would you fit in this organization?
- Would you feel inspired and engaged if you worked there?
- Is this position a challenging next step or would it be more of the same?
4. Match Your Skills and Build Your Story
Once you understand more about the job and the culture of the organization, begin to match you skills, expertise and priorities with the qualities that are important to your potential new employer. Do they match? How?
Write out the specific areas where you can see that your skills compliment what the employer wants and where their standards and culture intersect with your priorities.
Once you have written it out, build your signature story based on those intersections. Include how your skills, growth, interests and talents brought you to this point in your career. Your story explains why you want the position, which will helps interviewers emotionally connect with who you are and what is important to you.
Your story also needs to match your resume. If you haven’t thought about how to organize your resume, make sure it outlines your story. You resume is a brief introduction; your story is designed to fill in all the gaps.
5. Questions, Questions, Questions
You know that your prospective employer will have questions for you. You should practice answering interview questions with a partner. Find someone to play the role of interviewer. Tell them to give you feedback on your body language, long pauses or awkwardness you may have while talking about yourself. This will help you be more comfortable during the actual interview.
Remember, an interview is a two-way street. A potential employer is interviewing you to see if you are a good fit for the organization, and you are interviewing them to see if it is the right place for you. Employers make judgments about you based on the questions you ask. You need to develop probing questions which will enable both of you to get the answers you seek.
All this preparation will help you focus and create a true connection with your interviewer. It also helps you to remember what you’re worth.