A Twelve Step Process In Preparing For A Job Interview
With our economy’s continuing recession you might be thrown into a position where you would be seeking new employment. You've taken all the necessary steps in creating a compelling cover letter, updating your enticing resume, and sent your application to all the opening positions within your realm of endless possibilities. After what feels like an eternity of waiting, you finally get the phone call that your dream company was blown away by your application and wants to meet you for an interview.
The idea of people asking you questions about yourself, then taking your answers and forming an analysis whether you're a worthy candidate of the position can be a very intimidating process. Fear not, the most important thing to bring to an interview is confidence, and the best way to build that confidence is by being prepared. I have experienced many different types of interviews in my lifetime, and looking back, on my successes and even failures I have been able to break down a Twelve Step process on Preparing for an Interview.
1. Set the Time and Date That Works Best For You
As much as you want to get your interview over and done with, you will need time some time to prepare yourself. Be mindful that employers will also be eager to fill the position, so pick a reasonable amount of time for your preparation. Usually three to five days is an adequate amount of time. The first phone call is the beginning of the information gathering phase and you should be sure to write everything down and ask questions if some things require clarification. Be sure to get the name and title of the person who will be interviewing you, and know what their process is like. This will give you some direction and aid in your preparation. For example, a human resource representative will mostly have questions that deal with behavior and how you will fit in their company as a whole, whereas, a senior manager or director will question more on your technical assets and how you will be able to contribute to their team.
2. Know the Company
As soon as I get off the phone, I'm on the internet searching for the company's website and trying to absorb as much information as I can. I read up on the latest news to get a feel for the stability and their business position. My personal preference is to work for a company that has a proven track record in balancing their business decisions that benefit both the organization as well as the individual employee. Lastly, I read on the history and the progress that an organization has gone through. This allows me to get an understanding on what drives the business’ values and mission statement.
For example, if a company’s beginnings started as group of friends starting a business, they might value more of an entrepreneurial and ambitious spirit, whereas, a “mom & pop” store might value a more close-knit family oriented work force.
3. Know the Mission Statement
The mission statement is the purpose of a company or organization. It is the foundation that the company was founded on and is what guides their business directions. While you continue to navigate through the company’s website there will always be a section dedicated to their Mission Statement, or Values. Just think; if this is going to be your new place of employment it only makes sense that you also believe in the company’s direction and values. However, if you’re not able to find a mission statement, you should consider cancelling the interview and moving on with the job hunt because you wouldn’t want to be part of a business that doesn’t have a clear goal or objective.
What I’ve done in the past is to learn and understand the mission statement, and try to think of examples from my past work experiences on where my actions and achievements aligned with the mission statement’s targets and making sure that the examples are relevant to the job that you are applying to.
Showing to the interviewer that you understand and value their mission statement gives a positive impression that you are driven by the same goals and are passionate in succeeding and growing with the company.
4. Take Your Time and Relax
Fairly self-explanatory that you need to take time for yourself because understanding and learning about a whole new company is a lot of information to digest, and you don’t want to overload your brain. I find this to be a very important step because it will help to calm your nerves down and re-energize yourself.
5. Review the Job Description
If the job posting is no longer available online, you can call the person who set up your interview and request an email copy of the posting. This process is to help you evaluate yourself and to get a better understanding on what you have to offer for the company you’ve applied to. I like to take each line and assess how well I fit with that description. Try to be honest in your answer whether you’re strong, or you need improvement in that category.
6. Evaluate Where You Need Improvement
Now that you have a working list to start with, you’ll be able to evaluate yourself and build a collection of answers and examples that you can share on your interview. We’ll first focus on areas that you feel you aren’t all that strong in because it’s much more difficult to come to terms with our own shortcomings. Turn these into your strengths and don’t dwell on the fact that you aren’t 100% qualified in that area.
For example, if you feel that you need to develop your public speaking skills. You must be honest and acknowledge that you need to improve, but think of ways that you will be able to overcome this area of opportunity. You may be taking courses on public speaking, and you practice the techniques you’ve learned every night in front of the mirror.
The key is to always be in the mindset that if you must talk about an area of improvement, make sure to give concrete examples of ways that you’re working to develop this area. Employers definitely appreciate someone who is flexible and willing to make changes for their own betterment and the development of the company.
7. Evaluate Where You Are Strong
In the previous step we took an area that requires improvement and showed how we can turn it into strength. This step is to take what you already excel in and further highlight it and make it your main focus of emphasis. Look at the job description again and in the areas where you feel that you excel in think of solid examples where you experienced success in that area as an individual and as a part of a team.
These are key motivating and confidence boosters as you reflect back on what you have done in the past, and how you’ve done a great job in your years of experience. The intimidating responsibilities outlined in the job description are more achievable because you have already accomplished and succeeded in that area. In addition, you are already aware of your areas of improvement and are working on ways to meet the industry’s standard.
8. Think of Practice Questions
This is the step that I enjoy the most because it’s like playing a puzzle game. You never know what an interviewer is going to ask, and the challenge is getting yourself prepared with an appropriate answer that’s catered to you. What you learned about the company in your research and the examples from your own personal self-evaluation will be the basis of your answers and it’s all a matter of applying them to the right question. Do a Google search on common and sometimes uncommon interview questions and try to answer using your examples.
You will find that it’s much easier to answer questions related to the company because you’ve looked into the company’s history and you’re able to emphasize why you want to work for them. Answers regarding behavior and expectations will also come with relative ease because you’ve taken the time to learn and understand the mission statement and how you will be intending to apply the company values to your daily work life. Lastly, answers pertaining to technical qualifications related directly to the job itself will be answered with the utmost confidence because you have taken the time to evaluate your own personal strengths and areas of improvement.
You will most likely come across some questions that you hadn’t anticipated. Do not panic! In my experience these questions are to test how quickly you can think on your feet and whenever I come across a question that I had not fully prepared for I try give an honest answer to the interviewer because I am a firm believer of integrity and strongly abiding by my own values.
9. Dress for Success
The smallest detail must not be overlooked, and that includes with how your present yourself in your interview, and even after you've received your offer and accepted. I first take a look inside of my closet and envision what will be an appealing look. I envision my outfit as my own personal canvas that I can design, and really personalize the look that I want to project to my future employers. If I get stuck, I'll try to inspire myself by going onilne to find helpful tips and fashion advice. I am no fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination, but my general rule of thumb is; if you think that it might not be appropriate to wear, it probablly isn't.
10. Practice Run
The answers and examples you have put together in your head probably sound brilliant and you’re already on your way to signing that contract. However, take some time to practice out loud your interview. Ask a friend or loved one to play the role of your interviewer and give them the list of questions you’ve compiled. Request your practice interviewer to give you some feedback on the level of your answers and how you sound. Be sure that your answers are audible, brief, and not degrading. Work on your pronunciation and diction so that your words come out clear and natural. You want to captivate your interviewers with your answers and examples, but keep it concise and to the point. Lastly, do not put anyone down, especially your previous managers, co-workers, or companies as it reflects poorly on your character.
11. Know Where You Are Going
Do you know the address? Where is the visitor parking? What’s the best way to get there? How long does it take to get there? What’s the weather that day?
These are just some questions you need to revisit a few days before your interview. Knowing this information before-hand will significantly lower your stress level on the day of the interview. In the past, I’ve actually driven to the location a few days prior to my interview just to make sure I know the exact place, and the best route to get there.
My own rule for interviews is to show up at least a half an hour before your interview start time because it allows me to get a feel for the atmosphere and the work environment. I can also pick up more clues about the company in their main lobby which will give me further information about their organization.
12. Enjoy Yourself and Ask Questions
You’ve done all that you can in preparation for this interview. Hopefully you have a sense of control, power, and confidence with your own skills and experiences. Be sure to have fun and show your future employers the best side of yourself and be sure to be polite, courteous, and to smile often. Try to think of questions for your interviewers as well because you want to learn more about the company and the role that you have applied for.
If you can’t think of any other questions at the very least ask your interviewer, “What is your expectation of this role” and “How do you define a successful employee”. I always ask these questions because it leads me to give one last push to sell myself and to re-iterate the fact that I fit their criteria and will make the best candidate for the position.
There are many other strategies and steps that can be taken when preparing for an interview, and please feel free to combine those strategies along with these twelve steps. In my own experiences these steps have greatly improved the success rate of being hired by industry leading companies, and I hope you take care to follow these steps on your road to advancing your career.