"Good interviews are rare and they really stand out!" said Sue Dahling Sullivan, chief of staff for the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston, during a recent gathering of the Career Counselors' Consortium Northeast. Over the years, Sullivan has conducted many hundreds of interviews for a wide variety of positions in both the profit and non-profit sectors. Here are four of her crucial tips for job hunters seeking interview success:
1. Know the cast of characters. Make certain when you're invited for a job interview to ask who you will be meeting, their roles within the organization, and your schedule. Diligently prepare by researching each individual. Check out their LinkedIn profiles, search for them on Google News, and do a general Google search.
With this knowledge, figure out their interest in the position for which you're interviewing, and what concerns they likely need to address in the interview. Be prepared to discuss how you have worked with people in similar roles, and to demonstrate how your actions reveal your understanding of their needs.
2. Be thoughtful. Take the interview discussion beyond the content of your resume and the company's job description. Listen carefully to pick up subtle cues that your interviewers impart, and take the initiative to thoughtfully address them.
Know your own story so well that you can bring up examples of times when you have done what it takes to address the particular concerns that you are receiving. Don't just say that you can do the job, but rather tell how specifically you would use your knowledge/experience to make a difference in this new environment.
3. Be passionate. Sometimes you'll interview for a job because you're passionate about the specific work you would do. Alternatively, you might be passionate about the overall cause or mission of the organization or company you seek to join. Either way, it is important to display an emotional connection to whatever it is that this job represents to you. Why do you see this as a job or employer-of-choice for you, more than just a paycheck? When you do this, you show your interviewer that you're a fit that truly makes sense based on "who you are" as a person.
At the same time, however, it is important to show passion about what it is that you're offering to the employer. Show your passion for bringing great value to your new job. You talk about the enthusiasm that drove you to this particular career in the first place, your delight with a particular success or accomplishment you achieved, or how you will be someone who does more than simply kill time. Show your passion to make a difference for your employer.
4. Dress for success. You've heard this advice over and over again. Still, Sullivan laments, job seekers fail to present themselves appropriately. These days, there is no one "right way" to dress for an interview. It is a matter of context. Demonstrate your knowledge of the kind of place to which you're applying by the way you present yourself.
If you're interviewing for a high-powered Wall Street position, you will be laughed out of the room if you show up in business casual, no matter how well you might perform the job. If you're applying for a software engineering role at a company like Google, you aren't likely to get far if you show up in a grey pinstripe suit. And if you're applying for an executive role in a prestigious non-profit arts organization, you should accessorize that pinstripe suit with something that demonstrates your personal "artsy" flair.
A job interview is more than sitting down to cross-index a company's requirements with your capacities. It is about showing that you can not only do the work essential to a job, but that you also intuitively fit into the organization's culture and have a genuine commitment to furthering its success. When you do this, you take a large step in insuring your own success as well.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.