Congratulations! The hiring manager wants to interview you. Now what? You can begin by searching for more information about the job you have applied for. Chances are the requisition mentions the Program's name. Google it! See what you can find out about in the news.
Some programs, like mine, are difficult to find out about. Look anyway. You may find a story or two that give you insights into the program, the kinds of problems it solves, how long it has been in existence, and even how successful it has been.
Review the entire job requisition. Imagine the kinds of questions you might be asked as a candidate given the basic job requirements and the preferred job skills. Think of two or three questions you might be asked for each mentioned skill. Then prepare your answers for each question.
For example, if the basic skill is an ability to lead a small team of engineers, scientists, designers, software developers, or any other kind of small team, then develop two questions an interviewer might ask to determine if you have that skill. It is easier if you have actually led a team of the type the job requisition is calling for. You simply document those instances in your resume where you led that kind of small team.
What about the times when you have not quite done what the job requisition is asking for? Be creative with your answers. Here are some examples drawn from my interviewing experiences:
- Interviewer: Think of a time when you led a small team. Describe, for me, the kind of team you led. Tell me about your role in it. Were you responsible for organizing the work? Were you responsible for meeting cost, schedule and technical performance constraints? How did your experiences there prepare you to succeed in this job?
- Interviewer: Were you successful? What was your most memorable accomplishment? What was the most creative thing you did? What did you learn from your experience? How will that help you be successful in this job?
Developing Your Answers
Be creative with your answers. Draw from your experiences. Make sure your relevant experiences are documented in your resume. Be specific. Be concrete. Write your answers down. Be sure they answer the questions. Have someone you trust review the questions and your answers. Once you have the right questions with good, complete answers, then drill, practice, and rehearse. Chunk up the questions. Memorize your answer to each chunk. Here are some examples from the questions above:
- Interviewer: Think of a time when you led a small team. Describe, for me, the kind of team you led.
- Interviewee: I led an engineering design team with four members. Our team included an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer and a systems engineer.
- Interviewer: Tell me about your role in it.
- Interviewee: I led the team. I was responsible for everything my team did or failed to do. I coordinated the team's efforts higher, with my boss, and across the organization, for example, with manufacturing.
- Interviewer: Were you responsible for organizing the work?
- Interviewee: Yes. I took the requirements, determined the broad outlines of what the design should look like, and estimated the kinds and amounts of efforts needed. I then worked with my team to establish specific milestones for deliverables.
- Interviewer: Were you responsible for meeting cost, schedule and technical performance constraints?
- Interviewee: Yes. I was responsible for meeting all three. The technical performance constraints were directed. I negotiated cost and schedule based on the detailed plans my team put together.
- Interviewer: How did your experiences there prepare you to succeed in this job?
- Interviewee: As I understand it this job requires thoughtful, flexible, creative leadership to develop effective solutions quickly. My past jobs had similar requirements. For example, in my most recent job, our customer didn't really know what he wanted. We had to be very creative, working with the customer, as well as other parts of our organization. We succeeded because ...