So, what does a smart interview preparation tool look like? Oh, and how can I get one?
Well, to me, this is the break down:
Company Name. Interview Date. Location and Start Time.
Whether you have two weeks or two days to prepare, it is important to start with the basics. Map the location and drive it a day or two before the interview. Drive it at the same time you’ll be driving a day or two later. Arrive early. This helps you relax.
Company History and Culture.
You can learn a great deal from a look at where a company has been. Have there been struggles (financial or strategic)? Is it a new product rich environment or a company relying upon historical products or services to succeed today. What do these things say about the culture? Importance of innovation? This may be an important component for you as you identify a target company.
Industry Trends and Competitive Review
What’s happening in the company’s industry may have an impact on its decision making. Are there any large macro issues facing them and their competitors? For example, are they uniquely impacted by high gas prices? Who are their competitors and what are their new products. Does the company have number one brands or is it a second tier company in a very competitive category?
Now, before I go any further, you might be saying to yourself: “But I’m looking for an IT job! Why do I need to know all of this?” It may be that you don’t need to know all this information, but depending on who you meet, a knowledge of the company and its culture cannot hurt you!
Company Strategy and Recent Results
What is the stated objective of the company? Where is it looking to go? If you are in IT, what might be the impact be on the company’s use of technology? Is the company riding a few big recent successes? Has it struggled to get traction?
Interview Team Vetting
Who will interview you? Can you find out in advance? If so, look them up on Google or Linkedin. How long have they worked for the company? Have they spent their entire career in this industry? If the hiring manager has been in his/her position for less than a year, they will be more likely to listen to messages of change than if they’ve been in that role for 10 years. A more established manager may be more defensive to a more aggressive approach. This knowledge also helps in developing a person-specific list of questions.
Key Product Review And Usage Results
Whether the company makes widgets, rents cars, makes music videos or builds condos, find a way to get some personal experience with their product or service. For example, prior to my interview with a company that makes car wax in 2005, guess what I did? I washed and waxed my car. Twice. Really? Absolutely. And it made a huge difference in the interview. I was able to give them personal feedback on my experience with their products and it showed an early engagement and interest in their products. The other value? My car was sparkling on interview day – something they look for in candidates. So, ask yourself, how can you show a similar interest in the products or services of your target company? Of course, if you work in certain industries (Bio Tech or Pharmaceuticals) you may have to be careful!
Specific Job Requirements vs. My Strengths and Experiences
As simple as it sounds, list out the requirements and how you line up against them. Part of your job in this first interview is to prove (through a deeper look and via specific examples) your excellent fit with the job description the company worked so hard to create. Know where you are especially strong and where you may have to try a bit harder.
Identify Three Relevant and Measurable Successful Experiences
Be prepared to tell a great set of stories about how you’ve had a significant impact on other companies. And be able to relate them back to the challenges or opportunities described by the hiring company. Be ready to describe in a compelling way how these experiences make you uniquely qualified to step into this new role and succeed. Tomorrow.
Questions? Beginning. Middle. End.
Be prepared to show a genuine interest in the ways of the company, the hiring manager, the current challenges, the team, etc. And make sure you have questions prepared for each part of the interview. Early on, try a question that establishes a more conversational tone to the interview vs. a traditional Q&A format. Questions in the middle should show your depth of thinking and allow you to learn key details to help you cement fit with the position. Questions at the end should show your interest in the company’s future and perhaps the role that the department might play.
How would you like to be remembered by each interviewer? In addition to your being a great fit with the job description and, hopefully, a good fit culturally and personally, what will make you the ideal candidate? What will be the one thing that makes an interviewer gush over you in the post-interview wrap-up. You are in the car heading home. They are talking about you. What do you want them saying? Was it your energy? Your breakthrough ideas? Your work ethic?
Post Interview Reactions
So you survived. Now before you turn on the AC and pull out on down the road, take a few minutes to jot down your initial reactions. What does your gut say? Bubbling with excitement or really unsure? You need to react to the people but you also need to react to the messages and the energy of the office environment. For example, if you are a people person and no one smiled at you during your walk-through, what might that tell you?
There. That’s my Sip™. You can download the template here if that helps you.
I hope it helps you prepare for your next interview. Even more, I hope it helps you focus and feel smart as you step into the office of your first interviewer.
Oh, and I hope you knock their socks off.