Preparing well for an interview is key to a good performance- and could be what lands you the role. Talent Acquisition consultant, Shannon Blankschen, based in Thor's New York office shares how you can do the prep with this step-by-step interview guide.
By doing a google search of “interview prep” it is very unlikely that you won’t come across results that don’t include practicing your answers and researching the company – these two things are absolutely vital to a good interview.
If you are interested in a job and a recruiter offers to prep you for an interview it is always a good idea to take them up on this offer -they might know insight about the company and interviewer that can help you succeed and prepare you with what questions might be asked.
There are so many times I want to brush over the basics but the reality is ignoring these tips can be a deal breaker. Think of an interview prep like getting a cheat sheet and knowing answers on a test- its something you don’t want to ignore.
My interview prep is narrowed down into a few categories ……
Be on time but not too early- it can be extremely awkward to wait a long period of time and this is not polite to those that are working. Ten minutes early is appropriate- it is better to know your location and wait at a coffee shop rather than give yourself just enough time to arrive then realize you can’t find the location.
Be well groomed and dress appropriately. As a recruiter I’ve noticed that plenty of companies are relaxed in their interview style and are okay with casual attire but no matter what is important to look physically clean. I always tell candidates to dress business casual- it shows that you are taking the position seriously! You want something that fits just right and is not too revealing- it is best to have your outfit clean, pressed and tailored. Don’t forget about the little things like clean shoes, no small rips in clothing and manicured nails. These are the little things that you think people don’t notice but they do.
Many times recruiters say “research!” but they don’t stress what you should be looking for and how it can help with your communication style. While researching you should be gathering as much information on the organization and and the role while trying to connect the dots with how this aligns with your values, goals and skill set.
Your resume got a response for a reason, what about your background makes you a good fit for this role and what can you find about the position that is a fit for your long term and goals? When you identify what makes you an attractive candidate you can communicate your strengths through out the interview and tie in relevancy.
A good place to start your research is google and LinkedIn! You should be looking at the companies values, what they do/ what they produce, who are their competitors and what sets them apart, the background of the organization and where they are in their evolution. It is always a good idea to check the LinkedIn of who is interviewing you, you might notice commonalities that can be discussed in the interview.
Your answers should be genuine and not just something a recruiter tells you to say so that you get hired which is why when I prep with candidates I try to get to know their motivations and what is important to them in a new role.
Think about your strengths and what makes you a good hire! Based upon your research on the role and company what do you think would appeal the most to hiring managers? A good interview technique is to tell a story, think of what your biggest strengths are and a time that you were able to demonstrate those strengths.
Write down you three biggest strengths and think of a professional situation in which you used them to succeed. Think of recent work experiences that helped you grow as a professional and challenges that you were able to overcome.
I mention telling a story because interviewers hear the basics all of the time, “I am a great team player!” … “I have a strong work ethic”… okay awesome, but how so and how does it apply to the position you would like to get hired for?
Lastly, know what your long and short term goals are. This can be both personally and professionally, where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years and how can this company help you get you there?
Some feed back I received from hiring mangers is that they WANT to know what the candidates goals are so that they can help them get there while working at the company. Aside from your professional goals, what makes you who you are? What are some of your biggest goals and how are you planning on getting there?
People hire people they like and there are many hiring managers that want to see the person behind the resume so it helps to talk about your interests and who you are as an individual.
1. “What do you know about the company and position?” Imagine not doing your research and then you are asked this question?! There are times that interviewers will ask this question to see how much the candidate is interested in the position and if you can’t explain the role it is likely the interviewer will think you aren’t taking the role seriously.
2. “Why did you leave your last position and why are you looking for a new position?” Be honest here and answer in a positive way. Mentioning things like “poor management” … “awful pay” can set a negative tone in for the interview. If you are leaving for personal reasons (too much travel, not enough time spent with family) be honest but also concise … remember your the interview is your chance to sell and going on about a topic that doesn’t relate to your qualifications and explaining a topic for five minutes can take away from valuable time you have with the interviewer.
Take a look at this video… poor interview etiquette includes not making eye contact or engaging AND the interviewer literally sets her up for success as when she mentions “we like your experience in…” rather than take the slam dunk and further explain she goes on about her private life and asks about benefits and working from home rather than any of the job responsibilities.
3. “Tell me about yourself?” OR “tell me about your background and experience” If there is any question you want to nail and practice over and over again it is this one. This might be the first question asked so think of it like your pitch and have it nailed. This question does not mean “what are your favorite hobbies” or “do you like long walks on the beach?” you are being asked your qualifications and why you are a good fit.
Since this question can be a little tricky a great way to approach it is with a clarifying question (I actually saw this tip from a recruiter on LinkedIn!) You don’t want to go on for 10 minutes when they are just looking for something concise so a great way to approach it would be to ask the interviewer where they would like you to focus.
Your response can be something like , “I’d love to! Would you like the long or short version?” or “of course! Where would you like me to begin?”
In my opinion, it is much better to have a 2-3 elevator pitch that addresses your experience rather than spending ten minutes going through each position but in order to grasp what the interviewer is looking for it is best to ask a clarifying question.
4. “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” When addressing your strengths, think of what would make you excel in the role and what the company is looking for- like I mentioned a good way to stand out is to avoid generic answers, this is a good time you where can tie in relevancy (again RESEARCH should help!)
Let’s say you are applying to a sales position and you know that the role requires someone that is positive and resilient. If this is a strength mention it and tie it to a specific skill. Ex. “I am very positive and resilient, which is why I am comfortable making cold calls to prospects! I am a great communicator so right away I am able to make a connection and proceed from there!”
Of course, I must go into detail over the dreaded “weakness” question. If you volunteer something negative it can right away come across as a red flag or if you explain something that you think isn’t that big of a deal, you might end up painting a picture of why you aren’t a good hire. Wonderful this question is asked isn’t it?
My advice here is to mention a weakness as a skill you haven’t learned yet rather than a personality trait, this skill should not make or break for hiring responsibilities. Example: the interviewer already mentioned that the company is migrating over to a CRM platform, you have experience learning new CRM platforms but not this one yet and the majority of the company is on the same page.
A way to answer the weakness question….
“I have experience utilizing CRM platforms, but have not yet used ___ ! I’m sure this could be a challenge to learn but once I put in the extra effort I will be able to have a great performance”
5. “Do you have any questions about the role?” Your answer should be yes. I once had a candidate have what was described as an otherwise perfect interview that answered no to this question and then wasn’t hired for that purpose. This is your chance to learn more about the company culture, responsibilities etc. Again, if all questions are about paid time off and benefits it might show that you don’t have an interest in the company culture and can come across as rude.
6. Can you describe to me ___ skill and how you implemented it at your company? Interviewers ask some questions that go beyond personality/ culture fit to make sure you have tangible skills and that you can apply them to the role. Prior to the interview go through your resume and make sure you can explain each skill that is listed.
LASTLY, KEEP UP THAT POSITIVE ATTITUDE! I DID PLENTY OF RESEARCH FOR THIS POST SO I HOPE THIS HELPS, I TRULY BELIEVE THAT A GOOD PREP WILL GET YOU HIRED!