How To Nail A Job Interview

So you have been called for an interview. That's great! Obviously your resume worked perfectly and now you are ready to introduce yourself and your capabilities to the organization. So the next question is: how to prepare for an interview without being overly nervous or scripted?

Well the good news is that you are already a long way down the road because of the work you did in preparing your resume and developing your personal brand! The interview process will really be about reinforcing your brand so that it stands out in the minds of the interviewers.

Know What You Are Going Into

When you are called for an interview, make sure you get the names and positions of the people who will be doing the interview. This seems obvious but a lot of people don't do this and then are surprised to see a panel of four or five people waiting in the room to grill them when they show up. You don't need that surprise.

Quite often there will be two people involved in the interview process namely the individual doing the hiring and someone from the Human Resources (HR) group. In larger corporations, I have seen a trend where a peer of the successful candidate will also be included in the process.

Note that you can't do anything about who is doing the interviewing but knowing who it is should reduce the level of uncertainty for you and really...this is all about calm confidence.

Ask About or Confirm the Dress Code

Another key point in getting grounded before the interview is to ask about the dress code at the place of work. Most often you are going to be in formal business attire. If you are a man, this means with a tie and if you are a woman, then a dark business suit is a good bet. By asking you are demonstrating an interest and a confidence and sometimes, you may be surprised that the interview will include a tour of the shop floor or a lunch out at a fine restaurant etc. At any rate, it never hurts to ask and doing so will take another bit of uncertainty out of the process.

Learn About The Organization

In all likelihood you will have a few days in between the time you get the call and the actual interview. Use this time wisely by learning more about the organization that you will be interviewing with.

I can't state this strongly enough because there is nothing that will diminish your probability of success in an interview more than being ignorant about the organization. For example, when I worked for TransCanada PipeLines, I interviewed a lot of people who came into the interview with the idea that TransCanada was an oil pipeline company. A two second look at the company's website would have told them that TransCanada is one of the largest natural gas pipeline companies in the world! Oops!

It is not necessary for you to memorize a bunch of numbers or geographic locations or sales figures. Most interviewers are not looking for that kind of detail. What they want to know is that you care enough about the role to invest some of your time learning something about it.

Here are a few suggestions on this you should know irrespective of the organization.

  • What are the organization's vision, mission and values?
  • What does the organization do, e.g. why does it exist?
  • What is in their latest press releases?
  • What is the scope, span and size of the organization, i.e. is it a global company, how many people work there and is it publicly traded or privately held?
  • What are some of the challenges facing the organization or their industry?

Treat Everyone With Respect

Now I am going to assume that if you are smart enough to be reading this web page, that I do not have to tell you to treat the receptionist, secretary or personal assistant with the utmost respect, right? This is obvious.

I will tell you however, that it is a great idea to complement these people as a means of enrolling them in your hiring. Something as trivial as saying, "Gee I like that necklace you are wearing" or "Wow, this is certainly an impressive reception area", will cause you to stand out in a sea of other candidates. Remember, these employees are people and they will value being "seen" by you as people rather than as "servants" or "underlings". And - a smart leader will always ask their secretary for their impressions of the various candidates!

Manage Your Mindset

Okay, before we get into the interview itself - let's make sure you are mentally prepared to do well.

First of all - Be Yourself! Quite often people go into interviews with the idea that they need to be the person the interviewers are looking for so they try really hard to figure this out and then act accordingly. Please don't do this.

First of all, it is unlikely that you will be able to figure out what they are looking for as in many cases, they don't even know themselves.

Secondly, as you are trying to be assertive, outgoing, reflective, compassionate, strategic, organized, creative and analytical all at the same time - you will likely come off as a babbling idiot or someone with an uncontrolled personality disorder.

The key here is to be who you are. Use your brand as a foundation for describing your way of seeing, doing and being in a career role. Think about it. Do you really want a job where you have to be someone you are not to do well?

A second key point here is to understand that the interviewing process is about finding common ground. It is actually a peer to peer engagement. A big mistake a lot of candidates make is going into an interview feeling like they are powerless and that their future is at the whim and discretion of the organization doing the interview. Do you really want to work for an organization that treats people that way?

It is a peer to peer relationship because it has to work for both of you to work at all. Sure, the organization will likely be the one to express an interest in moving the relationship to a higher level either by making an offer or by scheduling a follow up interview or reference check. However, if the job that they have described sounds like hell on earth to you - do everyone a favor and decline with thanks. You have just as much power in deciding whether this will work out as they do.

If you are a person that works well with visual metaphors, I see a job interview as a blind date. The idea is for both parties to be curious about the other and see if there is a match in value systems, aspirations and opportunities to grow together. Sure both parties may want it to work but in some cases it just won't...and either party will decide if that is the case.

Thank You Notes

One of the things that can really set you apart from your competition in the job market is writing a personal thank you note after an interview.

I do not suggest sending an email. Sending an email says to me that you understand the importance of saying thank you but that you are too lazy to do it properly. Seriously! How many emails do people get in a day? 100? 200? 500? Your email is but one of many that they "have" to dig through every day and the importance and significance of it will be lost.

So my recommendation is to go to Wal-Mart or a dollar store and get a package of a dozen classy thank you notes for seven to ten bucks. You should have the business cards of the people you interviewed with or at least can Google the address of the company. A short, hand written (no spelling mistakes please) note saying: "Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about you and your company. I left our meeting feeling very excited about the work that you are doing and would love the opportunity to explore this role with you further."

Most people do not send any sort of follow up at all, so just by doing so you will come across as someone who is interested, emotionally intelligent and classy. Not a bad way to set yourself apart from the crowd!


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