It may seem surprising, but hiring managers are often amazed by candidates who don't carefully prepare for a job interview, and thereby sabotage their chances of being hired. Don't let this happen to you. While you can never anticipate every question that will be posed, there is much that you should do to anticipate what will be discussed.
Be a Research Demon
1. Make certain that you know as much as possible about the company and department. Gain more than just a passing familiarity with the company's website. Do a search on the company on Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! News, and on the same sections on Google and Bing. Of course, some of what comes up will be the same, but each section of each search engine could offer some unique information that will inform you about the products and services, the financial condition, industry issues, key personalities, challenges, and opportunities for the company as a whole.
2. Follow the company on LinkedIn, and learn everything you can about the people you will interact with by carefully reviewing their profiles. Look for areas of commonality, such as schools attended, former employers, and shared contacts. Often companies have a penchant for favoring alumni of certain schools, former employers, and so forth. You can make a passing reference to your time at a given school or company in the context of the conversation and subtly show that you share a common element of your background with people in the company or the interviewer him/herself.
Be Prepared to Spoon-Feed Information About Yourself
1. Anything and everything that you have included on your resume is fair game for an interview question. Be prepared to elaborate, explain, and convey exactly what you were referring to for every word on your resume.
2. Don't assume that your interviewer will have spent as much time thinking about you as you have about him or her, or harbor any illusions that this is a conversation of equals. Instead, be prepared to carefully explain everything you have conveyed on your resume without referring to the document at all.
Be Prepared to Answer Foreseeable Questions
Any employer will want to understand your career progression, to probe any potential red flags, and to get to know "what makes you tick."
1. Be prepared to explain every transition in your career. Examples: "Why did you leave X job? Why did you go to company Y?" Or, "walk me through your resume." Short answers of a sentence or two are best for this kind of "check-off" question. If more information is needed, you will get a follow-up question.
2. Be prepared to speak about your strengths without haughtiness, and your weaknesses without shame. When dealing with a weakness, be prepared to show how you have (or intend to) turn it into an area of strength. The greatest story you can tell is how you have improved your performance by recognizing what you didn't know or how to do, remedied that, and added to your portfolio of success stories.
3. Be prepared to show what you do to stay at the top of your game. Weave into the conversation at appropriate points your ongoing coursework, quest for the latest/greatest certifications, books and journal articles you study, and professional organizations in which you join and participate. And if you aren't doing these things ... start.
4. Be prepared to help the interviewer understand how the job you are discussing makes sense for both the company and you. Obviously, if you can't demonstrate your value to the employer, you won't get the job. But often, the employer wants to know that the job makes sense for you so that if you are hired you won't use it as a quick stepping stone to something that interests you more.
5. Be prepared to discuss compensation, even at a preliminary interview. How you respond to the query, "What are your salary expectations?" conveys more than just a number. While you want to delay conveying your absolute bottom line, you can't afford the impression of being coy or vague.
It is reasonable to say something like, "My current (or most recent) salary is/was $X, which demonstrates the value this employer believed I am worth. The job we are talking about is not the same..." and then cite different levels of responsibility, cost of living, etc., to show the difference. "So I would hope that you would take these things into consideration when determining what a fair offer might look like for me."
The bottom line is to show that you value this opportunity by demonstrating that you've taken the time to get to know as much as you can about the company, its industry, the people who work there, and the challenges you would face. Moreover, you want to use the interview to show yourself to be a reasonable, prepared, and energetic person. When you do this, you diminish the chances of making an unforced error, and increase the chances of ultimately hearing, "We'd be happy to have you join our company."
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.