Here’s something I realized about my professional career: in every job interview I’ve ever had, the job offer was mine. While I’ve had a few applications and resumes go unanswered, I’ve never been rejected after interviewing face to face.
I’ve worked for Verizon, major government contractors (including seven years at the White House), a publicly traded logistics company and three different craft breweries. If I make it to the interview, I get the job.
I also screened hundreds of resumes and interviewed dozens of candidates over my eight years of IT management experience. My track record in building teams and hiring candidates who last is successful. I know what traits and skills are most valuable to any organization for whom I am hiring.
Needless to say, I know what I’m doing when it comes to job interviews.
So, what’s the secret to nailing that job interview? Research and preparation.
First, take the time to learn everything you can about the company. This is the information age, so there is no excuse for not knowing what the company does.
Go to their website and read everything. Even if you are an existing customer of the company and have a good idea of what they do, still do this. Chances are, you are going to learn more.
Learn their mission. Learn about their products, who their customers are. Try to find the organizational structure. Then, do this for the department of the position for which you are interviewing.
Take it further! Go to LinkedIn and start looking up the people with whom you are interviewing. Look up the directors, the C-level staff.
Chances are, all this information is publically available. Take advantage of it!
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Compile your research into a job interview dossier.
Next, type up a mini-dossier on the company and department with which you are interviewing. Include a brief history of the company, what they’re about and who the key players are. Include a page that has the complete job description. Then, study the hell out of it!
After you’ve studied, reflect on how you might fit with this company. Type up a few key points about what you bring to the company and the role. How do your experience and skills bring them value? What areas of the job description are a perfect match for you?
Continue this reflection. In which areas might you need a learning curve? Under these points, learn enough about the topic to speak of it in familiar terms. This shows that you’re willing to learn.
Here’s a secret: every company overstates the requirements of the job description. Think of it as a wish list — they know they’re not going to find a candidate who meets every single need. But, they’re certainly going to shoot for the moon. Your ability to speak in familiar terms about areas in which you may be weak show a willingness to learn.
Finally, document any more information that might be relevant. If this is a part-time or a shift position, this might include your availability. If you have a work sample or two, tuck them back there just in case.
On the day of your interview, bring a nice looking folder with you. In the folder, have this dossier, any forms or documents the company may have sent you, and five copies of your resume. Reference any of these items when needed during the interview.
What does this show in the job interview? Drive!
I’ve done this for every job interview I’ve ever had. When I’ve been on the interviewer side of the table, I notice when candidates do this. The ones who do this are better prepared for the interview. They are more confident, they know what they’ve gotten into. Most of the time, they are the ones who get the job.
This is something I would recommend for any job interview. Whether you are interviewing for a part-time position on campus or going for that career-changing move — prepare! There’s nothing worse than someone who shows up and can’t answer the basic interview questions: what do you know about this company? What do you know about this position? Why do you want to work here?
Prepare yourself to answer those with the knowledge you’ve compiled in your research and dossier. Do this, and you’re already ahead of the pack.
Happy job hunting!