Interviewing – Rules of engagement
Looking for a job is stressful, and preparing for an interview can be daunting. Do you often freeze when faced with regularly asked interview questions? Like many unpleasant but necessary events in our lives (tooth extraction, splinter removal), an interview is a means to an end. If you have had even one interview, you can predict what the next one will be like. Instead of shrinking away, seize the opportunity to leverage your answers and win the game.
You can’t turn down an offer that hasn’t been extended.
Let’s start with the purpose of an interview:
Your goal: To get an offer!
The company’s goal: To make sure they are making a good investment.
You can’t turn down an offer that hasn’t been extended, so your objective going into the game is to get an offer. Getting the offer is not the same as getting the JOB. Getting the JOB comes with your acceptance of the offer. So slow down just a minute and make sure you are clear on what it takes to get the offer.
The most important rule in the job search game is that to get an offer, you must give the employer what they want. That does not mean you are going to stand on your head, become a different person or lie. In fact, I strongly advise against going against your values or saying anything that is blatantly untrue, because it will catch up to you. But it does mean preparing for the interview.
Make sure your needs and their needs can be met BEFORE you interview.
Ensuring your needs and their needs can be met BEFORE you interview is crucial component of the game. This means doing your homework, making no assumptions and being honest about your abilities and preparing for the interview. Don’t rely on the job posting or a company’s website to tell you everything. Applying to a posting that may or may not be accurate, with a company or people you are unfamiliar with, can leave you unclear and insecure going into the interview.
Invest the time to conduct deeper research. Learning about an organization from the people who work there will help you to know if it is truly a good match. Dig for information from other team members or past employees to learn more about an organization/department/hiring manager. You’ll be on a better path going into an interview if you know:
- The company’s values fit with yours.
- What they really want and need.
- The work is really as it has been described.
- You genuinely have the skills to do the work.
Prepare for the interview – Prepare to win.
Give each interview the effort it takes to get an offer. Craft answers to typically asked questions so you can be ready for almost anything. Scripting requires thinking ahead. The process prompts you to select precise/alternative words and provide positive responses. It helps you to avoid blurting out something negative. If your initial reaction to “Have you done x?” or “Do you know x?” is to say “No,” then you can end up dead in the water. Instead, if you have considered questions ahead of time, a more refined answer would be “What I have done is y, and it is like x because …”
Preparation is critical. Prepare to win! Practice just like an athlete does. And keep in mind that your responses should not sound canned. Practicing scripted answers will help you to wrap your brain around what you are thinking and saying. Repeating will also help you to recognize that some questions can be asked in different ways. Rehearsing will help you own your answers. Anything you say should be authentic, but it shouldn’t be shocking or dramatic. The purpose is to phrase your answers carefully and keep from blowing the tops of their heads off. Remember — they don’t really know you yet. They only need enough information from you to allow them to make a good decision.
If you have been successful in gathering information prior to the interview, then the interview can be as simple as having a conversation to affirm that what they saw in your resume is real and that you can walk your talk. Everything you say should support the union.
Adequately preparing for the interview, makes the outcome is easier to predict. Being aware of their needs and your limitations from the jump enables you to prepare your approach. If you have B.S.’d your way through the process, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when you aren’t selected. In most cases, it is easier than you think to identify the reasons you may have missed the mark. It’s much more fun to be a winner, even if you choose to turn down the offer. Next month I’ll address the purpose of debriefing an interview before moving on to the next.