Interviewing is the most important phase of a job search. Few people get hired without a successful interview. Yet it’s also a place where many job seekers get stuck. On Troubleshooting Tuesday, we are moving through each phase of the job search, tackling and fixing common sticking points. If you are generating job leads, and being invited in for interviews, but not getting called for second interviews or job offers, it’s time for a deeper look at what it takes to interview successfully. This week we’ll focus on preparation for interviews. Other Troubleshooting Tuesdays will help refine communication skills and other aspects of interviewing.
The first step toward successful interviewing is good preparation and research. It may sound pretty obvious but many job seekers are content to just look at the company website and call themselves “prepared”. The company website should be just the beginning of your digging. The goal of your preparation should be to:
- Fully understand the goals, challenges and problems the company is facing. Company websites tend to focus on what is going well for a company. It’s more valuable to know what isn’t working so you can position yourself as part of the solution.
- Learn the company’s mission, corporate mindset, and culture. Interviewers are always looking for fit. Coming across as a mis-match dooms your candidacy.
- Become well versed in the job, both as it’s generally practiced and what it means within this company. For example, if you are applying as a data analyst, you need to have a deep understanding of what that job title means in general, as well as how this position functions at this company specially. Every company uses people and positions differently.
- Gain insights into exactly what problems the company hopes to solve with this hire. Knowing the answer to this and positioning yourself as the one who can solve those problems is the key to getting hired.
By far the best way to get most of this information is from insiders – people who currently work for the company or have worked there in the past. Their insights are invaluable. Use your network, including LinkedIn, to help you locate people with connections to the company. If you can’t find them, try posting on a friendly public discussion group and see if you can locate someone that way.
Use the information you gather to create a picture of the company and how you might fit in. Consider:
- What types of skills do they most need to solve their current problems? How do my skills and past successes show I have what it takes?
- What do they value most in employees and in this position? How can I bring out those qualities with stories and examples?
- What is their future direction? How does my past work show I am well suited to help take them in that direction?
- What is unusual or unique about this company, be it their mission, values or culture? How will I demonstrate that I am a match for this company’s special qualities?
As you formulate great stories, do so with this information in mind. Let your research reveal the qualities and qualifications you need to bring out, then let your success stories do the selling.
For more on preparation, see Challenging Interview Questions in the Jobfully Resource Libarary.