Episode 25: January 9, 2009
by Lisa B. Marshall
This is the first installment of a two-part article covering 10 quick and dirty tips for acing your interview.
How to Ace Your Interview
When I talk with professional recruiters, the number one complaint they have is that too many people come unprepared to interviews. (Interestingly quite a few also mention bad breath as a big problem!)
What I’ve found is that many people just don’t know what they need to do. Interview preparation just isn’t the same as it was even a few years ago. There’s much more to it now. In fact, I had a hard time choosing just 10 tips and I had to split them up into two episodes.
So here are the first five.
Interviewing Tip #1: Research
Research. Research. Research. You should learn as much as you can about the industry, the organization, the key leaders, and the specific people who will be interviewing you. (At a minimum get the name and title of the hiring manager, but try to get this info for everyone).
Obviously the best place to start your research is the organization’s website; but don’t stop there. Google everyone who will be part of your interview process. Your goal is to discover common ground that you can use to build rapport quickly during the interview.
You’ll also want to use LinkedIn to find people who used to work at the company and contact them. My husband even found the last guy who had the job that he was interviewing for and talked with him on the phone. Don’t forget to search Google news for recent headlines about the industry, the company, and its key competitors. That adage, “Knowledge is power,” is true, especially during the interview and when it comes to evaluating an offer.
Interviewing Tip #2: Google Yourself
Of course the recruiters are also doing their homework. They’re Googling you. Ideally, you already know what's “out there,” but you’ll want to check again before an interview. You might be surprised. (Oh, and if you haven’t done it already, create Google and Twitter Alerts, which will automatically send you updates.)
You’ll need to know how to articulate the skills you bring and your work evidence that support your claims.
What? Nothing shows up when you Google your name? At a minimum you should create a profile on LinkedIn. Depending on what you do, you might also want to join a niche network. Why? Because you want the interviewers to discover more positive things about you and get to know you better. You also want them to read the fabulous recommendations you’ve gotten from your old bosses and colleagues.
Speaking of recommendations, you’ll want to review your reviews! Of course, you should you be regularly asking for recommendations, but the interview gives you a good excuse to ask for a few more. For your interview, make sure you remember one or two of them so you can work them into the conversations. Having others sing your praises really is a proven persuasive technique. Oh, and you’ll also want to begin to think about which of your references will make the best references for this particular opportunity.
Interviewing Tip #3: Review Your Profiles and Resume
You’ll want to review your profiles in detail. Like a resume or CV you need to be 100% correct with spelling and grammar. (If you are a non-native speaker, ask someone to help you). In a down economy it is critical that your words very clearly convey all the skills you currently have and how they can benefit the organization.
Also, keep in mind, that a profile is NOT a resume (although I’ve heard people say that). A profile is less formal and should reflect your personality -- your voice. (You might want to check out a post from Guy Kawasaki called “LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover.” Although the post is specific to LinkedIn, the principles can be applied to most profiles.)
A clear, concise, and compelling profile that is written in your own voice will go a long way towards making you stand out among the competition. Use the flexibility of the format to provide a more complete picture of yourself. By taking the time to do this, it will also help you to develop (or refine) some of your basic job search sound bites. These are your prepared and practiced responses to standard interviewing questions.
Interviewing Tip #4: Work on Your Soundbites
Most people get hung up in the company research and don’t spend enough time on this step. You’ll need to refine and rehearse as much as you can. For example, you’ll need long and short versions of your job history. You’ll need to know how to articulate the skills you bring and your work evidence that support your claims. It’s important to practice with someone so they can give you feedback. It also helps tremendously to record and critique (Viddler and Utterz are my favorite tools for this).
Just like your profile, refine your sound bites so that they’re clear, concise, and compelling. Practice them several times a day in short bursts, so that when you deliver them, they sound spontaneous and not rehearsed. During interviews your words need to be second nature. The idea is that you are so comfortable with your words, that instead, you can focus on the subtle reactions of your interviewer and adjust your responses.
Interviewing Tip #5: Create a Professional FAQ
One way to help you develop your sound bites is to create your professional FAQ. This is a document that asks and answers the commonly asked interview questions in the form of an FAQ. By creating this tool, it helps you to refine responses and can be used as notes during phone interviews. Leave a copy by the phone and carry one with you, in case you get an unexpected call. Also, consider sending it along with your resume. It makes a great impression and helps you stand out by anticipating what the interviewers want to know.
The next article, on Interviewing Tips, will cover the five other tips you need to ace your interview. And for many more tips and expert advice that will guarantee you ace that interview, check out my audiobook.
I’m really enjoying meeting readers. If you haven’t connected yet, you can find me in all the usual places, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.