In this post, I give away my biggest secret to job interviewing. In part 1 covered the simple stuff on the surface. Now we get down to the real nitty gritty.
Two or three days before the interview, you'll sit down with your resume and cover letter, plus a notebook and pen.
Step 1: The threes
Make a list of the three most important things you want the interviewer(s) to remember about you. They should be about key knowledge areas, skills or work habits you have to offer, and they should be responsive to the job description. They should also reflect what's in your resume.
For each of these three things, write down at least one example in your work history where you demonstrated that knowledge, skill or work habit. Hiring managers love specific examples.
Just about every job interview includes a vague question that boils down to Why should we hire you? or What are your strengths? Now you have an answer ready, beginning with, "There are three areas where I really think I'm a good fit for your needs." You can list those three areas, and give specific examples for when you've put those to work.
What you'll find is that this one set of answers will help you answer all sorts of questions in the interview. What's more, when you feel prepared, you're calm and will look much more confident.Step 2: Your questions for them
If it's the first interview, don't ask about salary or benefits. I generally stick with questions about the substance of the job and the organization where I'm interviewing. My last question is about next steps in the hiring process. Write down your questions on that same pad of paper. Three or four questions is usually plenty. The important thing is to have them prepared before the interview. Don't add to the interview pressure by making yourself try to think up clever questions on the spur of the moment.
You're going to take that notebook and a few pens with you to the interview so you can take notes on their answers. In fact, I take notes throughout the interview. Not too much, but at least to catch the important details. I want them to know I'm listening carefully.
Step 3: Practice
Sit down with your notes and practice. You've given yourself a couple of days, so do it a few times. Get comfortable talking about your strengths and telling stories about how you've demonstrated those strengths in previous jobs. You want to be able to do this without looking at the notebook in front of you too much. But you'll have it there during the interview if you need it. If you're comfortable practicing in front of a friend, even better. They can tell you if you're making sense and if you look nervous.
If the interview goes well and the hiring manager is a skilled interviewer, this preparation will make a good process go even better for you.
If - as happens far too often - you have an unskilled interviewer who's never seen your resume, you have a plan in place to ensure that they remember the three things you want them to remember about you. They'll stick in the interviewer's mind as relevant and specific. You'll feel confident that you've shown the best you have to offer, even if they didn't make it easy for you.