We all know getting the initial interview is the hardest part of the interviewing process.  You spend hours creating your resume, searching for jobs, and answering ads in hopes of getting the opportunity to actually talk to someone.   When you finally get a call for an interview, you have to make the best of the opportunity; this is when the real work begins.

The backbone of my interviewing approach is being over prepared.  I have learned that when you take the time to research the company and familiarize yourself with the job description you will be less nervous allowing yourself to tactfully move through the interview.  These are the steps I take prior to all of my interviews:

Step 1 – Research the Company

The goal of this step is to determine what type of company you are interviewing for and what your role will be within the company.  More than likely the interviewer will ask you what you know about the company; this is a great opportunity to show them that you are taking the job opportunity seriously and have done your homework on the company.

Start by creating a research document where you can save all of your findings and notes.  If you are fortunate enough to know someone that works at the company make sure to rack their brains about the company and its culture.  If you do not have an inside connection, use the internet, it is a powerful tool.  Begin with the Company’s website; this is where you can get the basics on the company like what products/services they offer, what customer groups they are targeting, their company goals, etc.

After exploring the company’s website start to look for employee and consumer os_product on the company.  There are many websites that post os_product by past employees, current employees, as well as consumers that that can offer insight into the day-to-day practices as well as the quality or products/services the company offers.  Make sure to take notes regarding any positive or negative feedback you find about the company; this will help you formulate what types of questions to ask during your interview.  It is important to keep in mind that the os_product online are bias to one persons point of view.  When bringing this stuff up in your interview make sure you present it in a non-combative way.  You do not want to make the interviewer defensive.

Once you are familiar with the company’s products/services and are armed with some insight on the culture of the company, you can start to think of specific things you can do to help the company achieve their goals.  Try to include your ideas into the interview; anytime you can add a comment about how you think the company might be able to grow or better serve their customers, you are demonstrating proactive thinking.

For instance when I was interviewing for a marketing position, I once recommended a company improve their website because it was out of date and they were not utilizing it to its fullest potential. After I explained how improving their website would help increase sales, the Director of Marketing told me they had recently been kicking the idea around.  I got a job offer the next day and my first project for this company was to create a brand new website. Even if your recommendation isn’t something they are thinking about, chances are they will be impressed that you are already trying to come up with ways to contribute to the company.

Step 2 – Familiarize yourself with the Job Description

The next step is to go through each bullet point on the job description.  When you are doing this think of answers for questions that may come up for each of the bullet points.  You want to be able to speak about each of the items listed in the job description.  Include things such as relevant experience, things you have learned, past success with each of the tasks, as well as provide positive examples.  It is a good idea to take notes as you go through the job description so that it is easy to review you responses later.  I usually copy the job description provided and paste it into word and write down my answers/notes bellow each bullet point.

One of the bullet points on a job I interviewed for said “Required experience managing others,” and I wrote down how I managed 11 employees at a previous company. Always elaborate on your answers to explain what you learned from the experience and how your actions were effective.  After telling the interviewer that I managed 11 employees, I added how I learned that you can’t treat everyone the same because everyone has different personalities and responds differently to various types of communication. You might have to be hard on one of your team members to get them to perform while another person might need a softer approach.

After answering all the bullet points, read them all over again to make sure you didn’t leave anything out.  Always print out the document and take it to the interview so you have notes to use if you forget how to answer the questions.  At one interview I actually gave the interviewer my bullet point document. He was very impressed at the amount of work I put into it.  It shows the interviewer that you came prepared and that this interview is important to you.

Step 3 – Find typical Interview Questions

As many people know, an interviewer will rarely just ask you questions straight off of the job description.  The interviewer’s job is to make sure you can both execute the various responsibilities that come with the job, as well as determine if you have the work ethic and personality to fit within their organization and company culture.  It is important to prepare yourself for the “personality and work ethic” questions so that you can accurately and positively portray yourself during the interview.

This is another case where the internet comes in handy.  If you run a basic search for “typical interview questions” you will multiple lists of questions to familiarize yourself with.  Once you have looked at a few websites you will notice that there are about 20 or so typical questions that pop up on almost all of the lists.  Take these typical questions and start building a list of your own.  Create a word document where you can store the questions and answers.  Go through each of the questions and think about why someone would ask that particular question; this will help you formulate an answer that is precise while further expressing why you are a good candidate for the position.

It is very important to write your answers down for these questions because as job descriptions change from position or position these questions virtually stay the same from one company to the next.  You will be able to reference and tweak you answers for future interviews for many years to come.  Also, by writing your answers down, you will have a greater chance of remembering your answers during the interview.  I typically remember about 70% of my answers just by writing them down and by going over them again and I am able to remember the other 30%.  In general, it should be fairly easy to remember your answers because you lived them and they should already be in your memory. The document you created will help you organize your thoughts so that you can thoughtfully express them in a high pressure situation like an interview.

Step 4 – Review your notes

Once I’m done with the first 3 steps I re-read everything again just to make sure I know how I am going to respond to the questions that will be asked.  It is a good idea to do this one last time before you head into your interview to ensure all of your answers are at the top of your mind, this will also help you relax since you will be reminded of all the knowledge you have to share during the interview.

Step 5 – Interview the Interviewer

Approach every interview with the mindset that you are going to interview them as much as they are going to interview you. Come prepared with a list of questions that you want to ask about the position, the company, and managing style of my potential boss.  It is important to make sure that the job fits you, your goals, and your personality.  By asking questions about the company, and the position, shows the interviewer that you are looking to make a responsible and educated decision about the job opportunity.  This will show them that you are confident in who you are and what you are looking for and have long term goals in mind for both yourself and the company.  Always tell them that you are not looking for a job, but looking for a career and want to make sure that the partnership is going to last. If you are desperate for a job and don’t care what the job is, I still recommend you ask a lot of questions because it shows them you care and that you want to make sure it’s a good fit for both parties.

To impress the interviewer, you need to be confident in yourself. That confidence will come with the proper preparation. Put time, effort and thought into your interview. Always be over prepared. These helpful tips will provide you all of the knowledge and confidence you need to “Ace that Interview!”

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