Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Three Interview Prep Tips That Will Leave Them Wanting More

I rocked that interview!

Those are the words that every career services professional wants to hear after spending time coaching a student. The elation and confidence that oozed from Jamie’s (name changed) voice was enough to energize me on an otherwise humdrum Friday. He recounted the “zone” that he was in after crossing the threshold into the conference room where the interview was held and the validating nods and smiles he received from the panel of interviewers. While he has not been offered the job yet (he will hear back this week), he felt that there was nothing more he possibly could have done to better sell himself in that interview. Every candidate should feel that way.

As proud as I am of Jamie, what he did was nothing special. He just took to heart these important components of interview preparation.

Practice the right way: In my opinion, there is one right way to practice for an interview: create the same conditions you are likely to encounter in the interview itself. Jamie knew that he was going to be asked behavioral questions so he almost exclusively studied and practiced these questions when preparing. Further, he didn’t just read the questions and try to come up with a mental response for each one. He-with the help of his girlfriend-practiced in front of a mirror, with her asking him a randomly selected question he wrote on a flash card. The flash card method helped him become comfortable hearing the question and formulating a response, and practicing in front of a mirror-as awkward as it sounds-helped him better gauge his nonverbal nuances to ensure that they were not distracting or unprofessional.

Know your audience: Through careful research, Jamie came to understand what the institution where he was interviewing-a medical clinic-was about and he tailored his answers to cater to this audience. Embedded in this clinic’s mission was patient care above anything else, so after every answer he gave in the interview he emphasized how that particular scenario or strength he possessed or skill he had developed would enhance his ability to deliver outstanding care to patients. Once you determine what the core function is for the organization where you applying, exploit it: keep referring back to it in the interview. It demonstrates awareness of the organization’s mission and purpose and the ease with which you will fit into its culture.

The end is not the end: Jamie understood that the end of the interview was not really the end: he still had to impress the panel. Thus, when he was asked if he had any questions for his interviewers he did not make the mistake of asking about work-related benefits or how much time off he would receive. Instead, he impressed them further with questions like:

  • What distinguishes a good candidate from an exceptional one?

  • What gaps do you see between what you are looking for in a candidate and my experience?

  • What are your biggest needs right now that you would hope the person you hire would quickly address?

These questions indicated his primary interest was to be an above-average candidate, showing that he was committed to the organization and not simply his own interests.

The next time that you interview, be like Jamie and feel confident through your painstaking, intentional preparation. Follow these principles to make your interviews more successful and leave them wanting more!

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