Pre-Interview Prep

Congrats!  You’ve received a call back and are scheduled for an interview.  What should you do now?

1.Return their call/email right away to schedule your interview. Right away doesn’t mean immediately 2 seconds after they contacted you but it should be the same day if possible.  Confirm date, time, location, and person(s) you are meeting once you connect.

2. Start your research.  Research the organization/company, the person/people you’re meeting, and any current events that pertain to the organization/company.  My very first interview out of college my interviewer asked me if I had seen the organization in the news recently.  Before the interview I went over the website but blatantly missed the section on press releases.  When I said no, he made a face and told me about the story that featured the org that was all over the news.

3. Review the job posting and know what the job requires backwards and forwards. Sometimes they’ll ask you to tell them about the job to see if you have a good grasp of the position.  If you fully understand all aspects of the position you can better articulate why you’ll be a good fit.

4. Review your resume.  Make sure you know what you’ve written.  It seems silly but sometimes people don’t remember what they’ve listed on their resume.   In the midst of a job search, when was the last time you actually read not skimmed  your resume?  Going over your resume will also allow you to identify and develop answers for any red flags. Do you have gaps?  Why was the length of time at that last position so short? Did you take a pay cut/demotion?

5. Get directions to your interview location and figure out travel time.  If possible print up alternate directions because you never know what can happen the day of.  If the location is unfamiliar, don’t feel shy about asking the person who’s scheduling your interview for directions.   Decide what time you need to leave and leave about half an hour earlier than that.  Lateness can lead to no interview or an interview where the employer has already decided they won’t consider you.  If you get there early, walk around for a bit until you have about 15 mins before your interview time.   Too early isn’t good either because they’re not ready for you yet.  Use that extra time to calm yourself down.

6. Make sure your suit is ready to go.  Yes your suit. Every adult should own at least 1 full suit.  Business dress varies by sector but that’s after you have the job.  No one will fault you for wearing a suit to an interview but there’s a chance that someone will fault you for not wearing a suit.

7. Print out copies of your resume if possible on resume paper.  When you get to your interview someone might ask you if you have a copy of your resume.  Most of the time they have your resume already, they just want to know if you came prepared.  Other times you might meet with someone else that hasn’t had time to review your materials.

8. Think of some questions to ask.  These questions shouldn’t be general information that can be found on the website.  They should deal more with the culture of the org, the goals for that program, the goals for your prospective supervisor etc.    You want your interviewer to know that you are engaged and interested.  If you really can’t think of anything at least ask them what is their time-frame for hiring for the position  and what are the next steps.

9. Practice your pitch (tell me about yourself) and some basic interview questions.  What are your major strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  A weakness is something that you have trouble with but are working to improve. “I have difficulty waking up on time for work” is not a good weakness (Yes, someone actually said this to me).   I like to “interview” in front of the mirror so that I can see what I’m doing with my hands and  faces when i’m describing something.

10. Get some rest!  You’re nervous and excited but try to get some rest.  You’ll do much better fully rested than if you’re up all night trying to prepare.

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Cocky vs. Confident

At some point during your job search (or life in general) someone has told you that you need to be confident.  If you’re confident in your abilities you can convince others that you’re a walking ball of skills and education fit for whatever position you choose. Unfortunately the line between cocky and confident has become muddled.  What should be an assertive pitch reaffirming why you’re a good fit has become a condescending brag-fest.

A few years ago I had a young client that used cocky and confident interchangeably.  Some of it had to do with the tone that he used when he talked about himself and his experience.  The bulk of it had to do with his inflated sense of self that could not be backed up with an achievement or tangible skill.  His pitch was that he should be able to command 60K per year because he was management material.  Not a past manager, his point was that he had the potential to be a manager.  He didn’t have a bachelor’s degree and didn’t have any management experience but wanted an “office job” where he would be a supervisor.  We tried to work with him and suggested starting off as an admin, learning the ropes, etc.  He declined because he felt he was management material and wouldn’t accept anything less.

I admire the gusto and focus on an end goal but it’s also important to be realistic.  If you have a condescending tone and start demanding a position or salary that you are not qualified for without any type of back up to prove why you should even be considered, you do not come off as confident.  That’s kind of like walking into college orientation the first day and saying, “I want my diploma now.  I know that I will do great here so let’s just cut out middle man and send me off to graduation with a diploma in hand.”

Your goal is to highlight your accomplishments and relate them back to what you can do for the company/organization.  You want your interviewer to be impressed with what you’ve achieved but also to think about what kind of contribution you can make to them. It isn’t just an opportunity to talk about all the awards you’ve won, or promotions you’ve received.  What do these accomplishments really say about you as a worker?  What do they say about your commitment to service and advancing the company’s/organization’s goal collectively?

Go over your elevator pitch and practice questions with an (honest) friend or spouse and ask them to rate you on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being cocky and 10 being confident.   People hire other people that they like.  Even in ultra-competitive fields where cockiness is seen as an attribute, no one is hiring you if they don’t like you initially.