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The job search interview: it’s one of the most important but least understood aspects of looking for a job. The single most important thing you can do to get a job is to interview. That’s right. You’ve promoted yourself with a stand-out resume, you’ve opened the right doors, attracted the attention of the person with the power to hire you, solicited an invitation for a meeting, and now it is the moment of truth.
If you’ve brought your job search to this point, congratulations are in order! Success—the job of your dreams—is in sight.
And yet, many people are fearful of interviews, anxious that they might stumble or freeze on a difficult question, scared of appearing unqualified, or afraid of rejection. While it is natural to feel this way, interviews are also the time when you can shine and where you can position yourself strategically to win the job.
This article will teach you an easy way to prepare, so that you can feel confident and really shine in job search interviews. With an understanding of these three interviewing secrets and the preparation that goes along with them, you will have the ability in your next job search interview to engage in a conversation and paint a picture in the interviewer’s mind of exactly how you are the best qualified candidate to meet their needs and help them solve their problems – ultimately winning the job offer.
Job Search Interview Secret #1 – Know your prospective new employer
Take your time to do your research before the interview. Preparation is an absolute must. Before your interview, you should take the time to learn all you can about the industry and trends in the industry, the company you are interviewing with, their strengths and weaknesses, their competitors, and the challenges that they are facing.
But, don’t stop there. Try to uncover some information about the position you are filling. Will you be replacing someone? Can you find out why? How does the position “fit” in the overall plans and goals of the company? What will be the expectations of you in the position, the challenges you will face, and the problems you will be expected to solve? These are, of course, all good topics for conversation and questions AT the interview. But, if you go armed with some knowledge already, you will have a basis for understanding the motivation behind questions the interviewer may ask, and will have a stronger foundation for framing your answers.
Finally, you should also take the time to learn about the interviewer, the person who will be your boss, and your boss’ boss. What keeps these people up at night? What are their top issues? What goals and objectives are they tasked with achieving for the company? All of this knowledge allows you to be prepared with success stories from your past that will illustrate you’re your strengths and value proposition are a perfect fit for the needs of the company.
Take the time to do your research and you will shine in the interview, easily differentiating yourself from the competition through your knowledge, sincere interest in your future employer, and your initiative.
Job Search Interview Secret #2 – Know your value proposition and how you will deliver ROI to your new employer
It is essential that you understand the bottom-line motivation of every company: that each of their employees deliver value—a return on their investment in hiring that employee.
Value and returns can be defined in a variety of ways, so it is helpful to remember that at the core every job is designed for one or more of three purposes:
- To make money for the company
- To save money for the company
- To solve a problem for the company
Prior to your interview, it is essential that you give some deep reflection to the questions of how YOU will make contributions to your prospective new employer. How will you make the company better? More profitable? Stronger? More productive? More efficient? What problems are you especially well qualified to solve for them?
In the answers to these questions, you find your value. Communicating your value during the interview, particularly as it relates to the drivers and issues you uncovered during your research, is a crucial key to the success of your interview.
Job Search Interview Secret #3 – Be prepared with success stories to illustrate your proven ability to add value
At this point, you are probably thinking about preparing to answer questions during the interview. The best way to do this is NOT to just prepare memorized speeches to the hundreds of potential questions you might be asked!
Sure, you should be familiar with typical interview questions and be ready with a general strategy for answering them. But if you put too much time into memorizing them, your answers will come across as stilted and rehearsed, and when you are asked an unexpected question you are likely to freeze.
Remember this essential truth: At its very core, a job search is a marketing campaign very similar to any other marketing campaign in which you are selling a product or service. But in a job search you are selling the ultimate product – YOURSELF!
At the essence of all marketing campaigns is an understanding of the priorities and problems of the target audience, and then of course the communication of the benefits and value that the product or service that you are selling will deliver in relation to those. We’ve covered each of these in the first two secrets of interview preparation.
I would like to encourage you to begin thinking about your job search in this very same way. You are the product that you are selling and as such, you have value and benefits to offer your target audience – the employers and hiring authorities. These values and benefits need to be conveyed in all of your job search interactions and communications. Your job search really is a personal sales and marketing campaign.
Knowing all this, how do you prepare for answering interview questions? As much as possible, you’ll want to phrase your answers in terms of the benefits and value they will add to the employer. Don’t just tell the interviewer you have a strength—give them an example that illustrates how you have used the strength to produce positive results in the past and provide context that will help the interviewer understand the strategic importance of the delivered results.
Your job search interview answers will be derived from what is commonly known as CAR Success Stories (Challenge-Action-Result Success Stories). Before your interview, take the time to think about and document between six and twelve CAR Success Stories. What are some of your greatest accomplishments that illustrate the strengths you want to highlight in your interview? What were the challenges you faced related to these accomplishments? What actions did you take to meet the challenge? What were the results—quantified results when possible—of the actions that you took?
Take your time to write out these stories and then learn them backwards and forwards. You will call on them to answer nearly every question you are asked in an interview, successfully turning your job search interview from a simple Q&A session into a memorable, positive, job-winning dialogue.