Job Interview Prep — Career Development Success
So, you scored a job interview. Congrats! However, it doesn’t mean diddly-squat if you’re not prepared. To be honest, you should have already done most of the preparation before you even applied for the job (otherwise how do you know it is a good company or a job worth applying for?) Either way, be SURE you do your prep.
Here’s how to prepare for a job interview:
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK ON THE COMPANY- Is the company mission in line with your goals? Does their purpose ring true for you? Are their values similar to yours? Is the company size a good fit for you? What about the work climate; does their company culture jive with your personality? Before your interview, be able to verbalize what their company is all about. This research will allow you to speak intelligently about their company and help both sides make a better decision.
- BE 100% CLEAR ON WHAT THE POSITION IS- Have they listed (in detail) your daily duties? If not, use the interview to gain clarity by asking specific questions about the role. Prepare and make note of these questions beforehand so that you don’t forget to ask them during your interview. If the company is vague about the position and trying to “sell” it to you seemingly in a hurry, run away. It means they are either not ready to hire you (unsure of the position themselves and just plain unorganized) OR they know it is a limited (perhaps crappy) role but they have to fill it and don’t really care how.
- UNDERSTAND YOUR VALUE- And be able to put this into words. This takes time and practice. Do the work! Think about and even write down your strengths, your talents, your areas of expertise, and your unique skills. Be clear on how you can add value to their mission by using these talents that you possess. Come up with examples of HOW you have already added value to projects in your current or prior roles. Be ready to share these examples during the interview.
- BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES- Yes, you want to be very honest and specific about your strengths and not afraid to boast about them (matter of factly) in an interview. Now is not the time to be all bashful and insecure. If you are very skilled at something, just tell them! But you do NOT want to tell (even white) lies here to make yourself seem really good at something you are not. Everyone has things they are amazing at and things they are not — it’s those who understand what their capabilities are and where their talents “fit” that have the best luck with jobs. Self-awareness is the key to any superb job match.
Even if you are not interviewing for a new job you should take stock in the above questions and answers about every year throughout your career. Your successful career development depends on it.
When you take time to assess your best work qualities and your work preferences, this allows you to think about where you can best serve your company. Only YOU know what type of environment helps you to be the most productive. Are you more efficient and creative when working in an open quiet space or do you thrive when working near others in a crowded, busy atmosphere? Are you an extrovert (get energized and come up with ideas while being around others) or more of an introvert (tend to feel drained when always among others but gain clarity and innovation when able to spend time alone)?
If either your current situation or job you are applying for doesn’t match up with your work preferences, then you are smart to move towards a position that does. This holds true for values too. Do the company values really (in practice) meet your personal ethical standards? If not, find positions that do! Always evolving to a higher-quality, more productive job fit will make things better for you and your company in the long run. Don’t be afraid to communicate where you need to evolve to or contribute ideas towards how the company’s process can evolve to a higher standard. Think about it, if everyone did this on a yearly basis and did not let fear or worries stop them, then all companies would be forced to higher standards and they would have to either rise to these standards or lose their best employees.
I’ve been working within a variety of industries for 20+ years now. If I could give my 24 year old career-self advice 20 years ago, I’d say, “Be picky, be bold, and put your best foot forward every day to make positive, productive work environments happen!”
During any interview or work meeting when a hiring manager is asking you about your most significant contributions, always use examples. Stories are what people remember, not a list of qualities (boring!). Once in an interview I hadn’t thought this piece through and I was asked to describe an example of a client that was best helped by our services. I did give them an example but let me tell you, it was a lame example (boring!). Right after the interview, I remembered a client who was so inspirational and I knew I should have told them that story! (Darn, too late — didn’t get that job).
The example I remembered too late was a military spouse who would make great use of her time and resources while your husband was deployed to Afghanistan for 6–8 months. During one deployment, she utilized a financial aid scholarship that our company helped connect her to and she obtained a public health certificate at a local community college. Then, during her husband’s next deployment, she used that certificate and got hired by an organization to travel to Sub-Sahara Africa to help educate women about female health and wellness. When she returned from her travels and her husband returned from his deployments, they would reunite and share all of their stories and experiences on how they’d each worked hard to improve the world. I thought this was awesome! And in future interviews, I always remembered to share this or other true stories that are inspiring. It leaves a mark — and always seems to get me hired! :)