Preparing for an Interview

Go ahead and assume, since you've been interviewed before, that you don't need the practice. Go. Right. Ahead.



I have been part of hundreds of interviews and interview panels, and I can tell you that no matter the level of professional, years of college or work experience, number of interviews you've been through already, that the interviewers can tell you who has come to their interview prepared and who has not.


So what does preparing entail?


FIRST - Make sure you know yourself. Haha, no really! Know your story, and own your story. If you aren't sure how you can answer "tell us a little bit about yourself" or "tell us about a time when...", you might as well walk out the door. These things evolve over time, and you need to be ready to answer them. You should have these items handy for networking as well, so even if you say, "but I'm not looking for work", I'd say neither were some of the people who are looking now.


SECOND - Know the position. Know who is hiring, what they are looking for and why. And if you don't know, ASK! You are allowed to ask for this information during the application process, and most larger employers will have it all right there on their website or in the job posting. Make sure you run through their website, know their strategic plan. Call someone you know or make a point to meet someone in the organization so you can get a feel for the culture. A job description can be revealing but reality is always better. Apply in organizations you understand, and if you don't, there are always ways in. Shop their product, use their services, attend an event they are having, or straight up ask the hiring contact or interview panel.


THIRD - They get to screen applications. NOT YOU. Not sure if your experience matches up? Apply. Fall into the category of other experience or degree rather than desired? Apply. Just shy of the years of experience? Apply. Don't quite have the credentials? Apply. Ultimately, it is their job as the employer to decide who to interview from there. If they decide you aren't qualified, that's their loss. If they have other candidates with the credentials, great for them, and you can move on. It is not your job to prescreen yourself out of an applicant pool. Make them do that work.


FOURTH - Unfortunately, it is your job to leave the breadcrumbs from your experience to their needs. This is your resume, cover letter and any supplemental information they request. (Also, don't be that dummy who gets screened out because you don't provide what they are asking for. Just do it.) You don't need to re-write your resume for every job you apply for, since you should be applying for a few to give yourself options. But you should be prepared to adjust it to highlight the parts of your experience they are looking for. Walk the employer and hiring team from your experience to how it relates to their needs. Spoon feed it. Even if they know you, even if it's an internal job posting. THEY WILL NOT DO THIS FOR YOU. So make it clear you understand them, their needs and the position you are interested in having.


FIFTH - Interviews go two-ways. If you are struggling financially and are desperate for work, this comes across, and of course you feel like they have all the power (they have all the salary/benefits). But the reality is, even in a crisis, there are jobs to be had and you get to interview them as much as they get to interview you. On the flip side, if you walk in to a room and don't engage or care about the problem they are trying to solve with this new hire, they will see that, too. Your job is to be curious, to be yourself and to discover along with them if this match will work out.


SIXTH - Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Know the salary range and your salary worth. And don't figure out your salary worth by yourself. Ask a collegue, ask a friend, research online. Because you will ALWAYS undersell your own value. Know your ranges. What is a must have (pay, benefit, perk, schedule, etc), what is a nice to have, what is a deal-breaker? Have these written down and be prepared to look at it for the discussion. And ask for time. Ask them when they need an answer back and take that time.


SEVENTH - Practice, practice, practice. Write it all down, and then rewrite it. Own it all, and know it inside and out. This confidence and self-awareness will pay huge dividends in any job search and career.

I know that this can seem like a lot, and yet, if you google any of these topics, you will find a library on each of the topics. It can be overwhelming, and most job seekers are flying blind and alone during this time. If you want support as you launch into your next steps, coaching can be a great partner where we condense the time it takes to figure these pieces out, hold you accountable to getting them done and provide that unbiased support to give feedback and practice in a real-life setting.


Good luck! (not that you'll need it)

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