Mindset and Approach

It’s your job to sell yourself. If you don’t do it, then you can be sure that no one else will. There is no need to bloat your accomplishments or make false claims, but there is every need to paint the best picture of yourself.

You’re interviewing them too. Your goal should be to find a job that you actually care about and a company that you want to be a part of. If you focus on jobs like that, then the interview will be much better. You’ll be genuinely engaged. You’ll ask more questions because you’re interested and not because “that’s what you’re supposed to do in an interview.”

How to Prepare for an Interview

If you want to be an exceptional candidate, then you need to do exceptional preparation. Preparation is the number one thing that will set you apart from other candidates. Want to be more impressive? Prepare more.

Know why you are applying for this job. Yes, you want a job so that you can pay for your lifestyle. But what are your underlying motivations? Why are you driven towards this job? Why are you passionate about this position? How do your values match the values you will need to do your job?

If you’re applying for a job at a public company, then check out the financial statements and SEC filings. Go online and search for the Annual Report, Proxy Statement, and 10-K for the company that you’re interested in. These documents aren’t thrilling reads, but they have excellent information in them. Even if you only read the summary near the beginning of each document, then you will be well versed on the inner workings of the company.

Reframe your experiences. Once you understand what the company is looking for and what the ideal candidate would look like, you can reframe your experiences to meet those expectations. For example, if the job description requires a “proven ability to motivate others,” then it is basically asking for “effective leadership skills”, but one of those phrases might match up better with your background than another. Spend some time thinking about alternative phrases and how you can reframe your skill set to match the desired qualifications.

Own your online reputation. Everyone going through the job process is going to have their name searched. You don’t need to be an internet superstar, but it’s a good idea to have an online presence that puts recruiters at ease. You either need to be comfortable with having the hiring manager reading your tweets and browsing your Facebook pictures or you need to adjust your privacy settings so that those areas are hidden. This is one area of the job process that actually is under your control, so it would be silly to not take responsibility for it.

If you know who is interviewing you, then search for them online. You can flip the script and search for your interviewers as well. Of course, you’re not looking for dirt, you’re looking for evidence that you might fit in well at the company, for areas of common interest, and for possible questions you could ask.

Use the STAR method to guide your answers. This simple formula ensures that you accurately describe your experiences and highlight the results they provided. The STAR method includes,

S: The Situation – describe it

T: The Task or problem – what dilemma or problem did you face?

A: The Action – what action did you take?

R: The Result – what was the result of your action?

Make sure that each experience you describe includes those four areas.

What to do the day of the interview

Before you arrive…

Print out your resume and bring multiple copies to the interview. You can’t assume that everyone you meet will have your resume handy, so make sure that you have copies of it ready for anyone you might encounter throughout the day.

Don’t even bother bringing your phone to the interview. If someone gives you their number, write it down. You don’t need to type it into your phone right away and it’s worth the peace of mind to not have to worry about it ringing or buzzing accidentally.

Dress for the job you want. Stick to the dress code that they will expect of you as an employee. And when all else fails, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

If it’s a good fit, then bring a few additional materials that highlight your accomplishments. These could be recommendations, awards, and so on. If it seems appropriate, then you can leave those materials with the hiring manager as further proof of your abilities.

After you arrive…

Treat everyone with respect. Smile when you come in and treat the receptionist or administrative assistant with respect. It’s not uncommon for recruiters to ask these people about their first impression, so you want to start off well.

Remember names. Make sure you know the name of everyone you meet and use their names throughout the interview. If you can’t pronounce their name or don’t remember it, then ask again right away, not 30 minutes later.

Answer the question that is asked of you. Don’t stray off topic and babble about unrelated areas. Show that you’re focused on the task at hand and engaged in the conversation.

Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know something. It is far better to truthfully state your skills and experiences than it is to lie, get the job, and be asked to do something you don’t know how to do … and then have to fess up. Keep things truthful and accurate and you’ll put yourself in a position to succeed.