By John O'Connor
If a doctor were to saunter into an operating room ready to do heart surgery, but he had looked at no diagnostic tests, no imaging, and conducted no research on the patient, you would say this doctor must be profoundly arrogant. Yet many job candidates saunter into interviews the same way—totally unprepared. In this I will share my Top Five List of what you need to do and develop (as marketing tools) if you want to make absolutely sure that you show up for the interview completely prepared: ready to discuss your prospective employer, and ready to share your own value.
Build a Foundation – If you do not have a proper foundation for your house, almost anything can knock it down. The same goes for a career strategy. At the very least, a potential employer will easily separate the champions from the chumps. Even if the job market is strong, no company or organization wants to hire an average person. They want the best. So what should you do to prepare, foundationally? Know everything about the company, their values, their brand, their products, their competition, and your value proposition. Talk to the people who work there or have worked there. Perform and pay for extensive research on the company.
Use Military Precision – If you were entering today’s high-tech and treacherous battlefield, you would want to own every available advantage. We find out from our transitioning military personnel that you can’t control everything but you must control what you can. Do not underestimate the level of preparation needed to master every interview phase. Lack of interview preparation may kill your candidacy. You must prepare for screenings, one on one, panel, group, videoconference, lunch, dinner and, today, the video phone screen. That’s right. Every person should be ready to be interviewed in almost every conceivable situation, including answering your iPhone and being asked to go through an interview.
Creatively Prepare for Every Type of Interview – Do you really need to know the kinds of phone screening questions a human resources person might ask? Does it matter if you really master the structured in-person interview? What if you have an unstructured one-on-one interview? Have you ever experienced or would you know how to handle a Stress, Situational, Panel, Committee or Group interview? They are all different. You need preparation for each.
Embrace the Unusual – One of our clients was asked to write a white paper in three days about how he would benefit a future employer. Another client was asked to answer video interview questions as a preliminary step to their in-person interview. Another client was asked to schedule a panel interview that would be conducted through Skype. Another client was asked to write a case study about employment and solving the company’s current problems. Late in the interview stage one of our clients was asked to write a 10-page business plan for a company even before being hired.
Go to Sound Bite Level – “I don’t need to memorize my interview answers,” said one job seeker we interviewed. “I just kind of fly by the seat of my pants and it has worked before.” Flying by the seat of one’s pants has interesting implications for the interview, but we never recommend making it a part of your method to be hired. He’s right. You should not memorize answers you see in a book or read online about your interview.
But you need to be well versed, rehearsed and trained about how you will handle certain questions. If you have not practiced your script, gone off your script, as they say, and if you cannot improvise effectively through the interview process, then you are not ready. You need help. If a 30-second Hollywood commercial production takes a week to shoot, how much more time should you dedicate to practicing the sale of yourself for your next career move, your next life move and your next move toward your work-life mission? It’s important.