On occasion, I hear from a hiring manager or a C-level executive on the why they decide to eliminate a candidate from consideration. And, yes there are many reasons why candidates fall short and don’t get the nod. I get that. What I don’t understand is how or why a candidate loses out on a great opportunity because he or she was not prepared for the interview. This is never good.
Even though we are now officially in a candidate-driven market after a decade of anemic hiring with all of the ups and downs of our long and drawn out recovery, candidates should not underestimate the value of preparation when it comes to a telephone or a face-to-face interview. You need to be at your best when you interview. Period. Candidates have to invest in the process or opt out. It’s really just that simple.
Build a pre-interview plan and invest the time to know and understand your audience, their background and the details regarding the organization you are considering joining. A good rule of thumb is to invest two to three hours of time doing your research in advance of a phone or in-person interview. If you invest the proper amount of time, the interviewer will know it and you will stand out as a candidate that prepared in advance. This can increase your odds in making the cut. Conversely, if you fail to prepare, you should be prepared for unfavorable results—and generally speaking it will turn out exactly the way it’s supposed to. People get rewarded and receive credit when they prepare for major activities where they are required to demonstrate value and that includes presentations, meetings, speeches and yes— interviews.
Follow these simple steps the next time you are preparing for an interview to increase your odds of winning:
- Have a written plan: Write your interview objectives down on paper. This will crystalize your thinking and get you engaged for the big day. Having a written plan also ensures you won’t forget key things to do or say during an interview. This becomes your guide or your flight plan list—and make sure you check every box.
- Formulate smart open-ended questions to ask: You are being interviewed. I get that. However, you also need to be doing some interviewing of your future employer as well, so prepare open-ended questions in advance. These questions should be based on the key items that matter—not vacation time, benefits, and never compensation. There will be time for that later.
- Do your homework: Everything you need to know is available online so there is really no excuse for ever not being prepared. Read the latest news on the organization and study the LinkedIn profiles of everyone you plan to meet with. They will know if you prepared and they will know if you don’t. Be smart. Prepare!
- Know your WHY: What is your value equation? What do you bring to the table and why is that important? Why do you want to work for this organization? Why are you unique? Have your numbers memorized on key success metrics that you and your team delivered. Hiring managers love numbers and metrics.
- Respond to questions: Use what you know about the organization and what you learned from the recruiter to anticipate their questions. If a question is a sticking point for you, pivot, relax, wait a few seconds and then respond with a detailed answer to their question. Don’t overreact or take things personally. Your responses to tough questions will say a lot about you—good or bad.
- Convey your interest: If you like what you hear during an interview, make sure you let the person conducting the interview know that. It’s important to make sure they know you are interested and why. Finally, ask them about the next steps in the process. Thank them and send a short note the same day. Keep it short and concise and reiterate your interest; no more than four or five sentences. That should do it!