Ask most people what scares them most and they will most likely tell you it’s public speaking or a job interview. After all, job interviews require you to put forth your best self, in a short period of time and are in fact, a type of public speaking. Most interviews are one-on-one, but don’t be shocked if occasionally you are interviewed by multiple people in a group, or by serial interviewers, i.e. first the human resources manager, then the hiring manager and possibly a person currently in the position for which you are applying. But interviewing is not rocket science, thankfully, and the necessary skills can be learned and honed over time. Here is a short list of some things you can do to steer the interview in your favor:
Prepare, prepare, prepare. I cannot stress this enough. Learn everything you can about the organization by reviewing their web site. If your target is a non-profit or association, make sure you read and understand their mission statement. If a for-profit, do you understand what products and services they offer? An easy way to get a handle on the company is to read at least 6 months – 1 year of their news stories. These are usually posted on their web site.
Make sure you have professional attire: clean, pressed and ready to go. This may seem obvious but you would not believe the number of folks who show up dressed inappropriately. For women, this can be low cut blouses or too high heels. For men this can mean showing up in a sports coat and pants instead of a suit or wearing too flashy a tie.
Make sure you know your strengths and liabilities and what you can bring to the organization ahead of time. Practice saying them out in front of a friend or the mirror. When asked a question, make sure you make eye contact, have good posture and don’t fidget nervously. Try to be brief and concise in your answers and don’t ramble on.
Have at least 3 questions prepared ahead of time. Most employers will ask you if you have any questions towards the end of the interview. This is not just being polite- you are still being evaluated. You can ask questions based on what you have read on the organization’s web page or ask about the state of the industry, given the economy. If you are familiar with tech issues, don’t be afraid to ask about how the company sees the cloud or twitter etc. affecting their business. Finally, you can ask an individual interviewer what YOU can do, if hired, to ensure that s(he) gets a gold star on their next performance review.
Use your contacts. Check LinkedIn to find out more about the company or to find LinkedIn connections who can give you the inside scoop on the job. In a tight job market, your connections are an even more important resource than they are when jobs are plentiful.
Beth P. Bigman is a writer, marketing and sales professional and corporate trainer. Beth holds a law degree from Georgetown and is fluent in French with a working knowledge of Spanish and German. She supports Hire Our Heroes and the Arthritis Foundation and loves fiction, cooking and traveling.